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Full text of "A bias for action : the German 7th Panzer Division in France & Russia 1940-1941"

A^E C 



feu 

102 
.P47 
no. 1 



MARINE CORPS U LIBRARY 




3000080384 




PECTTVES 

ON 

WARFIGHTING 

Number One 



A BIAS FOR ACTION: 

The German 7th Panzer 

Division in France & Russia 

1940-1941 



by 
Dr. Russel H. S. Stolfi 




Marine Corps University 

Perspectives on Warfighting 

Number One 



~.u**i-£ 



A BIAS FOR ACTION: 



The German 7th Panzer 
Division in France & Russia 
n • 1940-1941 On* 



A 




by 
Dr. Russel H. S. Stolfi 



u 



This issue of Perspectives on Warfighting, is based on unclassified research 
conducted by Professor Stolfi for the federal government. Such research is in the 
public domain. 

This revised and edited version is published by the Command and Staff Col- 
lege Foundation of Quantico, Va. through a grant from the General Gerald C. 
Thomas Endowment Fund. All rights reserved. No portion of this manuscript 
may be reproduced or stored in anyway except as authorized by law. Upon re- 
quest, active and reserve military units will be freely given permission to repro- 
duce this issue to assist in their training. 

Copyright 1991 by the Command and Staff College Foundation 

Printed by the Marine Corps Association 
Box 1775 • Quantico, VA • 22134 

The Emblem of the U.S. Marine Corps depicted on the front cover is used courte- 
sy of The Triton Collection, New York, N.Y. This emblem is available as a full 
color print or poster for sale at the Marine Corps Association Bookstore. 



A Bias for Action 



Preface 



W 



ith this issue, The Marine Corps University inaugu- 
rates a new series of scholarly papers on warfighting. The series is 
called Perspectives on Warfighting and the first paper is Professor 
Stolfi's revealing study, "A Bias For Action." 

We hope and believe that "A Bias For Action" will be of im- 
mediate use to Fleet Marine Force organizations, especially those 
that are deployed. Professor Stolfi's research adds an additional 
and essential dimension to the Marine Corps' high-tempo maneu- 
ver warfare doctrine, set forth in FMFM-1, Warfighting. Such doc- 
trine requires the most imaginative commanders and thoroughly 
trained cohesive units if it is to be effective. Professor Stolfl 
searches the record of units in combat to find the organizational 
and personal characteristics that maneuver warfare demands. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 



Editoral Policy 
Perspectives on Warfighting 



T, 



he Marine Corps University's Perspectives on Warfighting 
is a series of occasional papers, edited by The Marine Corps Uni- 
versity, funded by the Marine Corps Command and Staff College 
Foundation, and published by the Marine Corps Association. 

Funding and publication is available to scholars whose propo- 
sals are accepted based on their scholastic and experiential back- 
grounds and fulfillment of our editoral policy requirements. We 
require: (1) a focus on warfighting (2) relevence to the combat mis- 
sion of the Marine Corps (3) a basis of combat history and (4) high 
standard of scholarly research and writing. 

The Marine Corps University's Perspectives on Warfighting will be 
studies of the art of war. History must be the basis of all study of 
war because history is the record of success and failure. It is 
through the study of that record that we may deduce our tactics, 
operational art, and strategy for the future. Yet, though the basis of 
the series Perspectives on Warfighting is always history, they are not 
papers about history. They are papers about warfare, through 
which we may learn and prepare to fight. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



Table of Contents 



Chapters 



Chapter I. 



Chapter II. 



Chapter m. 



The 7th Panzer Division in the 
French Campaign, May 1940. 

The 7th Panzer Division in the Soviet 
Union, June- July 1941. 

Observations on the Combat 
Performance of the 7th Panzer 
Division and Suggested Actions for 
the Improvement of Marine Corps 
Operational Capabilities 



Pages 

1 
43 



79 



Figures 






Figure 1. 


Abbreviations Used for the 7th 
Panzer Division and the Organic 
Units 


3 


Figure 2. 


Example of a 7.Pz.D. Thrust Line (13 
14 June 1940) 


100 


Figure 3. 


Message from 5.Pz.D. to 7.Pz.D. 

(13 May 40) 


101 


Figure 4. 


Message from 7.Pz.D. to S.R.7 





(13 May 40). Critical Time 0550 in 

Meuse Crossing 102 

Figure 5. Message from S.R.7 to 7.Pz.D. 

(13 May 40). Answer to Division 

Query of 0550 103 

Figure 6. Message from 7.Pz.D. to Pz.A.A37 

(13 May 40) 104 

Figure 7. Message from Pz.A.A.37 to "the 

General" (Rommel) ( 13 May 40) 105 

Figure 8. Message from Operations Staff to 

the General, i.e., Rommel Personally 

(13 May 40) 106 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 



Figure 9. 


Message from the General Personally 
to the Division Command Post 
(14 May 40) 


Figure 10. 


Message from Rommel with Pz.R.25 
to7.Pz.D.(14May40) 


Figure 11. 


Message from Rommel with Pz.R.25 
to7.Pz.D.(14May40) 


Figure 12. 


Casualties of 7.Pz.D. in Battle of 
France (10 May - 22 June 40) 


Figure 13. 


Allied Losses in Combat with 7.Pz.D. 
(10 May -19 June 40) 


Figure 14. 


Message from the General (at 
Pz.R.25) to the Division Command 
Post (17 May 40) 


Figure 15. 


Message from 7.Pz.D. to XV.A.K. 
(17 May 40) in Name of Rommel 


Figure 16. 


Message from the General to the 
Division Command Post (17 May 40) 


Figure 17. 


Message from the General to the 



107 
108 
109 

22 
23 

110 
111 
112 



Division Command Post Immediately 

Before the Night Attack, 19 - 20 

May 40 113 

Figure 18. Message from the General to the 

Division Command Post (20 May 40) 114 

Figure 19. Message from the General to the 

Division Command Post (20 May 40) 115 

Figure 20. Message from the General to the 

Division Staff (20 May 40) (Pioneers) 116 

Figure 21. Message from the General to the 

Division Staff 920 May 40) (Artillery) 117 

Figure 22. Message from the Artillery Commander 

to the General (20 May 40) 
(Crasemann) 118 

Figure 23. Message from the General to the 

Division Staff (20 May 40) (Pioneers) 119 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



Figure 24. Contrasting Marine Infantry 

Batallion and German 7th Panzer 

Division Staff Sections 84 

Figure 25. Contrasting Marine Divisions and 

German 7th Panzer Division Staff 
Sections 85 



Maps 






Mapl. 


Advance of 7.Pz.D. Through Belgium 
and France 12. -21.5.41 


8 


Map 2. 


Situation of 7.Pz.D. on Evening of 
18 May 40 


120 


Map 3. 


Situation of 7.Pz.D. at Approximately 
0700 20 May 40 


121 


Map 4. 


Concentration Area of 7.Pz.D. for 





Attack on the Soviet Union 

(22 June 41) 122 

Map 5. Advance of 7.Pz.D. 22.6-11.7.41. The 

Episode of the Encirclement West of 
Minsk and Drive to Vitebsk 51 

Map 6. Advance of 7.Pz.D. to Effect 

Encirclements at Smolensk and West 
ofVyazma 73 

Map 7. Location of 7.Pz.D. on 25.7.41 123 

Map 8. Location of 7.Pz.D. on 28.7.41 124 

Map 9. Location of 7.Pz.D. and Attack of 

Soviet Group Kalinin (24 July 41) 125 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Chapter I 

The 7th Panzer Division in the 
French Campaign, May 1940 

w 

T ▼ orld War II analysts often refer to the German cam- 
paign against France as the Six Week's War. They do this to high- 
light the extraordinary speed with which the Germans achieved 
victory in a campaign that began on 10 May 1940 and did not in- 
volve much fighting beyond 17 June 1940 — the day on which 
France's Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain asked the Germans for 
an armistice. To grasp the scope of the German achievement in 
France, the "Six Weeks War" should perhaps be called the "Five 
Weeks War," or even the "Four Days War." The Germans took ap- 
proximately five days to regroup for the attack across the Somme, 
so actual combat took place over a period of only about five weeks. 
Futhermore, the Germans achieved the decisive turning point in 
the campaign when they forced crossings of the Meuse (Maas) 
River at several points on 13 May 1940 only four days into the bat- 
tle. The Germans, in effect, won the Battle of France in four days 
because of the crossing of the river barrier combined with the im- 
mediate exploitation of the crossing by the swift advances of the 
7th Panzer Division and others deep into the Allied rear. 

The German 7th Panzer Division (hereafter referred to as 
7.Pz.D.), l operating under the direction of the XVth Panzer Corps 
(XV.A.K. (mot.)), advanced with greater effect arguably, than any 
other German division in the West. There were other fine divi- 

See Figure 1 for unit abbreviations used in this study. Note that in German, 7., is equiva- 
lent to English, 7th. In German, the decimal point represents the ordinal numbers (i.e., 
those which indicate the order in which things come) and replaces the "th" and "rd" and 
"st" used in English. The system is simpler and will be used throughout to give a flavor for 
the German style of expression. 

Perspectives On Warfighting 1 



Marine Corps University 

sions. The German l.Pz.D., lying farther south in XIX.A.K. (mot), 
for example, advanced with similar urgency and effect. But the 
7.Pz.D. not only achieved more but it fought with an offensive skill 
unexcelled in modern times. The 7.Pz.D. approach to warfighting 
was truly remarkable and holds lessons for the Marine Corps and 
other western ground combat forces today. Just what were the ac- 
complishments of 7.Pz.D? And what was the spirit and style of 
command that characterized this division as it made some of the 
most spectacular advances in modern times? 

Perhaps the search for answers should begin with Erwin 
Rommel. Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Erwin Rommel, fresh 
from his assignment as commander of the Fuhrer Begleiter Bataillon 
{Fuhrer Escort Battalion), became the commander of 7.Pz.D. on 12 
February 1940 in time to put a special stamp on the division asso- 
ciated with his name. 

Even today Rommel tends to overshadow 7.Pz.D. and its 
achievements during the Battle of France. Time and again, 
Rommel devised the push forward that had a campaign-level im- 
pact on the western offensive: the crossing of the Meuse, the push 
through the French border fortifications, the successful blunting of 
the Allied counterattack at Arras, the penetration of the Somme 
River defenses in a single day. Rommel simply would suffer no 
tactical impasse. When the northern path of attack over the Meuse 
800m south of Houx began to falter in the face of heavy fire, 
Rommel went personally to the spot and ordered his tanks into 
the open on the banks of the crossing site so that they could sup- 
port the attack with direct fire. The attack was successful. On the 
next morning when the bridgehead was threatened by strong 
French tank attacks, Rommel — again personally on the spot — or- 
dered his troops to fire their light-signalling pistols at the tanks 
coming through the morning mist; he told the troops that the 
French tanks would veer off in the surprise and uncertainty of the 
situation. They did. Rommel's operational and tactical instincts 
would ultimately place him in the category of military genius. But 
the quality and achievements of the 7.Pz.D. went far beyond one 
man. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



English 

7th Armored Division 


German 

7. Panzer-Division 


German 
Abbreviation 

7.Pz.Div. or 
7.Pz.D. 


The Main Maneuver Elements: 




25th Armored Regiment 


Panzer-Regiment 25 


Pz. Rgt. 25 or 
Pz.R. 25 


7th Motorized Rifle 
Regiment 


Schutzen Regiment 7 


S.R.7 


6th Motorized Rifle 
Regiment 


Schutzen Regiment 6 


S.R.6 


37th Armored Panzer Aufklarungs- 
Reconnaissance Detachment Abteilung 37 


Pz A.A 37 


7th Motorcycle 
Battalion 


Kradschutzen- 
Bataillon 7 


K.7, or 
Krad.7 


The Main Combat Support Elements: 




78th Artillery 
Regiment 


Artillerie-Regiment 78 


AR.78 


58th Pioneer Battalion 


Pionier-Bataillon 58 


Pi.58 


42d Antitank Detachment 


Panzerjager- 
Abteilung 42 


Pz.Vg. 42 


59th Light Anti- 
aircraft Detachment 


Leichte Flak 
Abteilung 59 


Fla. 59 



Figure 1. Abbreviations Used for 7th Panzer Division and its Organic 
Units 



The division had qualities in its subordinate commanders, 
staff officers, combat soldiers and their weapons and equipment 
that ensured this Panzerdivision and others like it would have 
been formidable in war with or without Rommel. The 7.Pz.D. had 
a common approach to warfighting that gave them great speed, 
flexibility and a tremendous talent for communicating much in 
few words — and sometimes in no words at all. Later in WW II, 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 

7.Pz.D., took this approach to war to Russia and under a new com- 
mander, Generalmajor von Funck (commander of 5.Pz.R, 5.Pz.D. 
in France), 7.Pz.D. achieved results even more impressive than 
those in France. 



But Russia lay in the distance, France was the immediate 
challenge. As usual, 7.Pz.D. moved quickly. Led by Rommel, as 
part of the XV.A.K. (mot.), 7.Pz.D. advanced at 0530 on 10 May 
1940 into the undefended but "strong and deep border obstacles" 2 
of the hilly and forested terrain of the Belgian Ardennes south of 
the old city of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). Rommel's mission — and 
that of the whole XV.A.K. (mot.)— was to guard the right flank of 
the German Schwerpunkt 3 , Panzer Group Kleist, to the South. The 
danger was of an Allied attack from the north using forces already 
massed in Belgium. Rommel pushed the division so hard that it 
quickly outdistanced the neighboring 5.Pz.D. to the north and, not 
too surprisingly, the neighboring 32.1.D. (Infantry Division) to the 
south. Rommel employed Kradschutzen Bataillon 7 (K.7, or Motor- 
cycle Battalion 7) and Panzer Aufklarungs Abteilung 37, (Pz.A.A.37, 
or Armored Reconnaissance Detachment 37, a battalion-strength 
organization) as the lead elements of the advance. In both France 
(1940) and Russia (1941) 4 , the commanding generals of 7.Pz.D. 
would use K.7 and Pz.A.A.37 as the lead elements. Rommel and 
Funck used these mobile ground elements extensively for recon- 
naissance, often breaking them up into small elements and send- 
ing them off in multiple directions to find out what was going on. 
Most often, both generals used these elements in tandem as the ad- 
vanced detachments along the main axis of the division's advance. 

See in, ZPa.D., la, Kurzberichte, 10.5.40, U.S., Archives, German Records, Division, T-315, 
Roll 401, Fr. 000624. 

Literally, heavy point. The Germans used the term figuratively to denote the crucial focus 
in an attack or on the defensive. The term is associated both with a physical area and associ- 
ated formation of troops, e.g., in the first stage of the French Campaign, the Schwerpunkt was 
with Panzer Group Kleist through Sedan to the coast of the English Channel. 

The author will use the term, Russia, to describe the operating area in the east 
interchangeably with Soviet Union because of the persistent German use of the term 
Russland in describing the area. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

On the first day of the attack against France, Major V. 
Steinkeller led K7 as the advanced element of the entire division 
in the drive through the Ardennes. The battalion was a lightly 
armed, mobile force organized as follows: 



K.7.: German Ultra-Mobile Advanced Combat De- 
tachment and Reconnaissance Element of May 
1940. 5 

H.Q. Detachment: Mounted largely on motor- 
cycles. 

Weapons Detachment: 6 80mm mortars, 3 37mm 
AT guns. 

Two Motorcycle Companies: each w/3 50mm 
mortars, 4 hvy mgs, 18 It mgs. 



The Germans used K.7 to advance into the Ardennes through 
the light Belgian screening forces. Although nimble and lightly 
armed, K.7 was basically a combat (as opposed to reconnaissance) 
force. K7 was often reinforced by other elements that gave it im- 
pressive strength, e.g., a tank company, antitank platoon, artillery 
battery, pioneer platoon, Flak (antiaircraft) battery, or Schutzen 
(motorized infantry) company. On the first day of the attack, 10 
May 40, K.7 led the division toward the crossing of the Ourthe Riv- 
er, the major obstacle on the way to the Meuse. 

The next morning on 11 May 40, led by K7 and Pz.A.A.37 
moving along separate axes, 7.Pz.D. crossed the Ourthe River 
through a ford at Beffe, near Marcount and across a bridge cap- 
tured intact near La Roche en Ardenne. K.7 reinforced by 6./ 

See in H. Scheibert, Die Gespenster-Division, Eine Deutsche Panzer-Division (7.) im Zweiten 
Weltkrieg (Dorheim, no date), p. 24. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 



A.R.78, (6th Battery, Artillery Regiment 78, the regiment organic to 
7.Pz.D.) comprising four 105mm truck towed howitzers, engaged a 
"strong French mechanized unit with tanks and artillery at its dis- 
posal" 6 near the major road junction at Marche. This was on the 
direct route to Dinant on the Meuse now only about 35 km distant 
by road. As this action developed, PzAA.37, advancing north of 
the motorcyclists took the town of Marche itself. Since the morn- 
ing of the previous day, 10 May 40, 7.Pz.D. had traversed about 90 
km road distance through the Ardennes. The division had set a 
rapid pace; the First General Staff Officer (referred to hereafter as 
"la") of the division noted laconically in the short history of the 
campaign that during the advance on 11 May 40, "there was not 
contact with either of the neighboring units," 7 5.Pz.D. to the north 
and 32.1.D to the south. Casualties were light: 3 KIA, 7 WIA, and 3 
MIA. The division awarded one E.K. I to Lieutenant Schrock of 
Pz.A.A.37. Rommel and 7.Pz.D. were moving fast, looking neither 
left nor right nor over their shoulders, and keeping the screening 
and delaying forces of the enemy off balance. 

In spite of the remarkable advance of the forward detach- 
ments of 7.Pz.D., the French massed strong forces blocking the 
way to Dinant (on the Meuse) during the late afternoon and eve- 
ning of 11 May 40. Without hesitation, Rommel committed 
Pz.R.25 (Panzer Regiment 25) and S.R. 7 (Motorized Infantry Reg- 
iment 7) to an attack that opened at 0700 12 May 40. Oberst (Colo- 
nel) Rothenburg with Pz.R. 25 broke through the French defenders 
at 1000 and pushed on west of Leignon toward Dinant only 27 km 
distant. 7.Pz.Div. was advancing even faster than the rest of the 
speeding German army. The division had advanced so quickly 
that the corps commander, General Hoth, ordered 7.Pz.D. to take 
command of the strong Vorausabteilung (advanced detachment) of 
the neighboring 5.Pz.D. The mass of 5.Pz.D. lay well behind 
7.Pz.D. 



6 See, 7Pz.D., la, Kurzberichte, 11.5.40, U.S., Archives, German Records, Division, T-315, Roll 
401, Fr. 000625. 

7 Ibid. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

At 1645 on 12 May, the tank company of Hauptmann (Cap- 
tain) Steffen, reinforced by part of I./S.R.7 (1st Battalion, 7th Mo- 
torized Infantry Regiment), reached the Meuse at Dinant. In con- 
trast, farther south in the campaign level Schwerpunkt of Panzer 
Group Kleist, the armored troops of General der Panzertruppe 
Heinz Guderian's XIXA.K. (mot.) did not reach the Meuse until 
several hours later, 2300 on the evening of 12 May 40, at Sedan. 8 
When Kleist and Guderian ordered their main attack to begin at 
1600 13 May 40, they had the continuous support of the 
Schwerpunkt ground attack aircraft of the Luftwaffe — virtually all 
of the Stukas available in the west, screened and defended as ap- 
propriate by the German fighter force. Rommel to the north could 
depend on only modest air support and his own artillery, tank can- 
nons, and Flak weapons. Nevertheless, Rommel organized an at- 
tack—not for 1600— but for first light on 13 May 40. (See Map 1.) 

7.Pz.D. pushed its first elements across the Meuse at 0430 and 
gained by force two secure bridgeheads after several hours of hard 
combat. K.7 and S.R. 6 reinforced by pioneers and Pak (antitank 
guns) 9 seized the northern lodgement near Houx as S.R.7, rein- 
forced by pioneers, seized the southern bridgehead near Dinant. 
The defending French troops launched very strong counterattacks 
supported by tanks and artillery in the afternoon and early eve- 
ning against the German motorcyclists of K.7 and the riflemen of 
S.R.6. As darkness fell, the Germans began to ferry across tanks 
and armored reconnaissance vehicles. It had been a day of severe 
combat; the division lost 60 KIA, 122 WIA, and 6 MIA, and 
awarded 16 E.K. I, those of Oberleutnant Topfer of S.R.7 and 
Leutnant Neubrand of K.7 mentioned as having been won under 
particularly significant tactical circumstances. 

The German use of speed as a weapon was illustrated by their 
use of the hours of darkness. Rommel's presence, leadership and 

g 

See in, Hermann Balck, Ordnung im Chaos, Erinnerungen 1893-1948 (Osnabruck, 1980)) 

p. 269, where the author notes the leading troops of the leading division (l.Pz.D.) of Pz. Gr. 
Kleist reaching the Meuse at 2300, 12.5.40. Balck commanded S.R.I of l.Pz.D. 

9 

Pak or Panzerabwehrkanone or antitank cannon. The word has not become household in 
English as is the case with Flak (anti-aircraft fire) and will be italicized in the study. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 




*B or Berlaimont 



KILOMETERS 



10 20 30 40 50 



Map 1. Advance of l.Pz.D. Through Belgium and 
France 12 - 21 May 1941 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



influence had propelled 7.Pz.D throughout the southern crossing 
near Dinant. Now, with the sun having set, was the time to reform 
and rest after the difficult crossing. Common sense seemed to de- 
mand a break in the offense. Instead, Rommel continued the at- 
tack. During the early hours of darkness "on the basis of the order 
from XV.A.K. (mot.)," he launched S.R.7 out of the southern en- 
clave in an advance against Onhaye, a village 5 km west of the 
crossing site near Dinant. The soldiers of 7.Pz.D. had been on the 
move and engaged in heavy combat all day 12 May 40 and then 
without rest preparing for a crossing of the Meuse that began at 
0430 on 13 May. Fighting continuously on 13 May, the division 
must have been a candidate for physical and psychological ex- 
haustion by darkness on that day. Furthermore, the division had 
been constantly on the move since 0530 on 10 May 1940 in its chal- 
lenging traverse of the Ardennes. Yet Hoth ordered a night ad- 
vance west out of the still coalescing bridgeheads; Rommel almost 
certainly would have followed the same course of action without 
any prompting from Corps headquarters. What kind of thinking 
drove Hoth and Rommel at this stage of the offensive in the west? 
Only a fundamental understanding of the power unleashed by 
speed and relentlessness. 

7.Pz.D. had lost contact the previous day (12 May 40) with 
both of its neighbors. The la of the division noted, for example, that 
on 12 May the whereabouts of the mass of 5.Pz.D. was unknown 
and that no connection existed with 32.1.D. on the left. Things did 
not improve much on 13 May because only about two or three 
companies of 5.Pz.D. succeeded in forcing a crossing of the Meuse 
near Houx to the north of 7.Pz.D. 32.1.D. only drew near the 
Meuse 10 km south and slightly west of Dinant. Rommel advanced 
with S.R.7 reinforced by "Panzerjager" probably referring to a sig- 
nificant part of Panzerjager-Abteilung 42, the division's battalion- 
level Antitank Detachment (hereinafter referred to as Pz.Jg.42). 

Rommel advanced with exhausted troops, over unfamiliar ter- 
rain, in full darkness, and with no friendly forces on either flank. 

10 7.Pz.D., la, Kurzberichte, Supra 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 



Speed was both his weapon and his protection. Suddenly trouble 
developed. The lead regiment, S.R.7, advanced to the eastern edge 
of Onhaye before it sent out a radio call just before dawn that it 
had been surrounded (eingeschlossen) by the French around 
Onhaye. This apparently signaled a dramatic change in fortune for 
the Germans and the collapse of optimistic expectations for a 
breakthrough. Rommel gathered up all the tanks and armored re- 
connaissance vehicles that had been ferried across the Meuse, put 
himself at their head, and personally rushed to the assistance of 
S.R.7. Rommel discovered that the regiment had radioed not 
eingeschlossen (surrounded) but eingetroffen (struck), or that it has 
been hit hard by what turned out to be the first of several French 
tank attacks around Onhaye. u One must respect Clausewitz for 
his comments on war as friction and uncertainty. It is worth con- 
sidering also, whether an American division commander today 
would gather up and move instantly at the head of a column of 
armored vehicles? Division command posts in today's western 
ground forces have tended to become small cities with large 
bureaucracies. The benefits of this approach are hard to see; the 
benefits of Rommel's approach are compelling. At daybreak early 
on 14 May 1940, S.R.7 threw back several French tank attacks with 
the assistance of the tanks brought forward by Rommel. Rommel 
kept 7.Pz.D. advancing by leading from the front. The method was 
not without its drawbacks. Just west of Onhaye, under direct fire 
from two batteries of French 75 mm field guns and some Pak, 
Rommel's tank received a direct hit and he was lightly wounded. 

At 0900 14 May 40, Hoth (in a quick move of his own) placed 
all of the units belonging to 5.Pz.D west of the river under the com- 
mander of 7.Pz.D.. For the remainder of the day, with Pz.R.25, 
S.R.7, and S.R.6, i.e., the mass of the mission, now across the river, 
all under Rommel's command, the Germans fought off continu- 
ous French attacks in the area around and to the north of Onhaye. 
The Stuka (Junkers 87 B-l and similar B-variants) aircraft proved 

See in, 7Pz.D., la, Kriegsberichte, 14.5.40, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T- 
315, Roll 401, Fr. 000686. 



10 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

to be effective on this day in breaking up strong attacks from the 
west by French mechanized forces. Rommel and 7.Pz.D. went 
through another day of high intensity combat and the additional 
strain of having to develop the crossings over the Meuse River. The 
practical question arises: what kept the German combat soldiers 
awake? Yet at 1930 on 14 May 40, 7.Pz.D., which had mastered the 
French counterattacks, advanced with the intention of taking 
Morville, 7 km west of Onhaye. Pz.R.25 under Oberst Rothenburg 
led the advance and Rommel stationed himself personally with the 
regiment to ensure continued movement in the face of uncertainty, 
danger, fear, and the heavy fatigue of the troops. Rommel, 
Rothenburg, and the tank regiment seized Morville at 2230 in the 
face of tough resistance by the French. 7.Pz.D. completed another 
day of continuous lighting and movement in which it had taken 
casualties of 51 KIA and 158 WIA and awarded 19 E.K. I. 

The division was now 12 km west of the Meuse at about mid- 
night on 14 May 40 but the heavy casualties of the last two days of 
combat showed that it had not broken through the French defend- 
ers. The division had led the combat march through the Ardennes, 
had been the leader across the Meuse, and would be the division 
first to break away from the defensive zone along the Meuse. The 
division used K7 and Pz.A.A.37 as the leading elements in the flu- 
id situation in the Ardennes pushing them along two axes of ad- 
vance when the road system allowed, or cross-country when forced 
by Belgian and French resistance. The "motorcyclists" and the 
"armored car soldiers" seem to have given the commanding gener- 
als of 7.Pz.D. the capability to move out more quickly from a 
standing start than would have been possible with tanks and mo- 
torized infantry. 

The la of the division commented in his report of the crossing, 
that by the onset of darkness, the first tanks and armored recon- 
naissance vehicles had begun to be ferried across the river. Given 
the pressure on the bridgeheads by evening of 13 May 40, the Ger- 
mans, perhaps, should have been more concerned with Flak and 
antitank guns to defend their precarious hold. The division decid- 
ed, to the contrary, to use precious ferry space to bring over 
armored reconnaissance vehicles armed with 20 mm cannon, 



Perspectives On Warfighting 11 



Marine Corps University 

largely useless in defense against the French tanks of the day, but 
vital to the division commander in exploiting an advance out of 
the lodgements. Again and again Rommel and his staff empha- 
sized continuing the attack rather than consolidating hard won 
gains. 

Rommel by this time had originated a unique system of di- 
recting the division units by means of what he called the "Stosslinie 
der Division " (thrust line of the division). As appropriate, in writ- 
ten orders or radio and phone messages, the division la designated 
the thrust line for given time periods and directed the maneuver of 
subordinate units of the divisions along it. The la always desig- 
nated the thrust line in terms of a beginning point and an ending 
point clearly identifiable on the 1:100,000 or 1:300,000 maps being 
used to conduct operations. On some occasions the thrust line 
would include a single turning point, i.e., a thrust line did not ordi- 
narily have but might have a single angle in it. A thrust line would 
most often begin with zero and always be marked at one-kilometer 
intervals for its entire length. The units of 7.Pz.D. would talk to one 
another in terms of locations along this line, for example, " 14 right 
1 km," meaning 14 km along the line and right 1.5 km. Rommel 
had created a psychological masterpiece by moving the division in 
terms of an inspiring great arrow on the map instead of soulless 
map coordinates. The system was also flexible, simple, and secure, 
e.g., towns, road junctions, and other geographical points were 
rarely mentioned in orders or messages directing the movements 
of the division. (See Figure 2, in appendix, for an example of a 
thrust line.) 

German commanders and staff officers worded their mes- 
sages in a manner that gives valuable clues to their style in con- 
ducting mobile operations. The messages tended to be compact 
and starkly brief. They reflected a special kind of self confidence 
and initiative on the part of the senders. Note the following ex- 

See for example, 7. Panzer-Division; la, Gefechts-und Erfahrungsberichte Abschrift, Betr; 
Funkbetrieb, Div. St. Qu., den 11.6 40, U.S. Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 
436, Fr. 000736. 



12 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



change early in the campaign (See Figures 3, 4, 5, 6, in appendix, 
for the messages themselves): 



MESSAGE 



Date Time From-To Message Wording 

13.5 0420 5.Pz.D. to 7.Pz.D. Angriff0430 

(Our attack is going in at 0430) B 

13.5 0550 7.Pz.D. to S.R. 7 We Lage? 

(How are you doing?) 4 



MESSAGE 


Date 


Time 


From-To 


Message Wording 


13.5 


0640 


S.R.7 to T.Pz.D. 


0600 S.R.7 FIuss Maas uberschritten 
(7th Motorized Infantry Regiment 
crossed the Maas River at 0600). 15 


13.5 


0730 


7.Pz.D. to Pz.A.A.37 


Gefangene zur Division 
(Prisoners to the division). 16 



German officers penned these messages during the tense 
hours of the assault crossing of the Meuse. The messages show a 

7Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum kriegstagebuch, Funkspruch Nr. 2A, 13.5.40, U.S., Archives, German 
Records, T-315, Roll 402 Fr. 000014. 

14 Ibid., Nr. 66, Fr. 000017. 

7.Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch, Meldung Nr. 104, U.S. Archives, German Records, 
Divisions, T-315, Roll 402, Fr. 000025. 

7.Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch, Funkspruch Nr. 13, U.S. Archives, German Rec- 
ords, Division, T-315, Roll 402, Fr. 000025. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 13 



Marine Corps University 

remarkably stark but also streamlined style. They also show that 
the officers writing them shared a common, no-nonsense opera- 
tional language. The following message illustrates the direct style 
of the Germans in which unit commanders addressed themselves 
directly to the division commander, in this case Major Erdmann 
speaking directly to "the general." (See also Figure 7, in appendix): 



MESSAGE 



Date Time From-To Message Wording 

13.5 0645 Pz.A.A-37 The message is obscured by fire 

(Major Erdmann) damage. It begins though by devel- 

to The General oping the situation of Pz.A.A.37 

around 0600 13.5.40. 



German divisions had small operations and quartermaster 
(logistics) staffs. The operations staff was particularly small in 
numbers and light in rank. As formally organized, 7.Pz.D. had no 
assistant division commander and no executive officer in any 
component element. The division had no chief of staff but rather a 
1st general staff officer (operations) (la), major, i.G. (Major im 
Generalstab, or Major of the General Staff) Heidkamper, who ran 
the internal affairs of the division, coordinated the parts, and 
maintained contact with neighboring units to left and right and the 
next higher headquarters. Young as he was, he was also the first 
advisor to the commanding general on the combat operations of 
the division. He did his job largely with the assistance of the intel- 
ligence officer (Ic), Major Ziegler (not a general staff officer) and 
the division quartermaster Hauptmann i.G. von Metzsch. These ju- 

17 Ibid., Spruch Nr. 25/26, Fr. 000018. 



14 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

nior officers dominated the division Operations Staff and Quarter- 
master Detachment. Major i.G. Heidkamper had a close and confi- 
dent relationship with the commanding general based not on rank 
but on his undoubted competence as a general staff officer. The 
self confidence and initiative are illustrated by the following mes- 
sage (See also Figure 8, in appendix): 18 



MESSAGE 


Date 

13.5 


Time 

0700 


From-To 

Fuhrg. Stqffel 
(Operations Staff) 
to The General 


Message Wording 

Wie Luftlage? Sollen wir Jagdfluz 
erfordern? (How is the air situation? 
Should we request fighters?) 



With his streamlined operations staff and without the massive 
bureaucracy characteristic of today's division command post and 
operations staff, the German Panzer division commander had a 
more direct relationship with his commanders and a greater op- 
portunity to lead the division from the front. Rommel was particu- 
larly aggressive and placed himself forward not only by natural 
predilection and the opportunity afforded by his compact opera- 
tions staff, but also because he had achieved a special insight into 
the uncertainty, chance, and danger of war. Based on his success in 
combat in World War I, he seems to have understood that the most 
effective way to overcome the chaos of war was to personally stay 
with the offensive Schwerpunkt force, maintain the initiative and, 
thereby reduce the uncertainty of war. The following message illus- 
trates Rommel at the front of various spearhead detachments 
struggling to break out of the bridgehead: 19 



18 
7Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch, Funkspruch Nr. 4, U.S., Archives, German Records, 

Divisions, T-315, Roll 402-Fr. 000032. 

19 
l.Pz.D., la, Anlagen, zum Kriegstagebuch, Operationsakten, Spruch Nr. 16, U.S., Archives, 

German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 402, Fr. 000228. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 15 



Marine Corps University 



MESSAGE 



Date Time From-To 

14.5 0810 Gen 

(General) 
to Div. Gt. 



(Div. Command Post) 



Message Wording 

Rommel hilft Bismarck mit Panzern. 
(Rommel to the assistance of Bis- 
marck [CO, S.R.7] with tanks) 



The time is the morning of 14 May 40 and the message shows 
Rommel personally leading tanks of the newly arriving Pz.R.25 to 
assist the Schwerpunkt of the attack with S.R.7 commanded by 
Oberst v. Bismarck in the southern bridgehead. After fierce engage- 
ments during the daylight hours in the bridgehead, Rommel ener- 
getically ignited a night advance to attempt to achieve the elusive 
breakthrough. The following messages show Rommel organizing 
events from the front to keep the division moving: 



MESSAGE 


Date 


Time 


From-To 


Message Wording 


14.5 


c.1900 


Rommel w/ Pz.R.25 


Rommel Wo funfte panzer Div. (Rom- 






to 7.Pz.D. 


mel—Where is 5th Panzer Divi- 
sion?) 20 


14.5 


1930 


Rommel w/Pz.R.25 


Rommel 1930 Verfolgung mit allem 






to 7.Pz.D. 


Waffen. (Rommel 1930— Pursue with 
all weapons.) 21 



t^^K^"N^*i <-^"> 



20 Ibid. Skruch Nr. 120, Fr. 00327. 



21 



Ibid. Skruch Nr. obscured, Fr. 000326. 



16 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

The messages show that Rommel had concentrated the attack 
of 7.Pz.D. with Pz.R.25 and is in the process of driving it with S.R.7 
westward to complete a breakthrough of the Meuse line of defense. 
In the first message, Rommel expeditiously uses the communica- 
tions of Pz.R.25 to query the division staff on the location of the 
neighboring Panzer division. In the second message, he dramati- 
cally orders through the division operations staff pursuit of the 
French with all "weapons" (See also Figures 9, 10 & 11, in appen- 
dix). 

Rommel and 7.Pz.D. would achieve their greatest success in 
the French Campaign in the period 15-21 May 40 with the bold ad- 
vance out of the Meuse bridgehead in Belgium. The division 
would accelerate through Avesnes in France, continue into a deep 
drive west of Arras (France), and successfully defend against a 
nerve-wracking British counterblow thereby cutting off approxi- 
mately 44 Allied divisions in Belgium. After having arrived at 
Morville 14 km west of Dinant on the Meuse around midnight on 
14 May 40, 7.Pz.D. got the first "rest" in the campaign after five 
days of continuous moving or fighting. Then, at 1000 the next 
morning, the division attacked "on the order of XV.A.K. (mot.)" in 
the direction of Avesnes in France. Rommel deployed Pz.R.25 un- 
der Oberst Rothenburg as the spearhead of the advance and per- 
sonally accompanied the tanks himself. Rommel ordered PzAA.37, 
S.R.7, and part of the division artillery to follow the tanks. He also 
coordinated a Stuka attack against Philippeville 15 km to the west 
along the route of the attack. Elements of continuity begin to 
emerge in the German style of advance. Rommel is forward with 
the most advanced element of the division, which momentarily is 
the tank "wedge," the pace of the advance is relentless, and the re- 
connaissance battalion is close behind the tanks that are expected 
to run into trouble. 

Almost immediately, Pz.R.25 met French tanks and in a short 
gun battle, they hit and disabled (Abgeschossen) seven French 
"heavy tanks." 22 The official German record of the event does not 

22 

l.Pz.D., la, Kurzberichte: DerKampfim Western, Mai-Juni 1940, U.S., Archives, German Rec- 
ords, Divisions, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 000688. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 17 



Marine Corps University 

give the model designation of the French tanks but they would al- 
most certainly have been either the 32-ton Char B-l bis or 20-ton 
S.O.M.U.A. 35. These tanks had armor on both hulls and turrets va- 
rying from 40mm-60mm making them too heavily armored to be 
penetrated by either the antitank guns or the tank cannons of 
7.Pz.D.. In this extraordinary situation throughout the French 
Campaign. 7.Pz.D. (and all other divisions of the German army in 
France) had to depend on hits to the track system, "lucky" impacts 
against the junction of turret and hull (to jam the turret), and other 
similar types of impacts to disable these vehicles. In this 
uncomfortable situation, the Germans survived largely by flexible 
employment of the heavy Flak weapons and 105mm artillery how- 
itzers of the division in direct fire against the tanks. 

After disabling the French heavy tanks, Pz.R.25, with Rommel 
personally accompanying it, drove along Route Nationale 36 to 
Philippeville about 13 km west of the tank engagement. Rommel 
and Rothenburg moved boldly and with strong nerves because the 
French closed in behind them engaging the following Pz.A.A.37 
and S.R.7 for several hours in heavy fighting in which the Ger- 
mans destroyed 12 heavy and 14 light French tanks. Rommel and 
Pz.R.25 reached Philippeville at 1300 15 May 40 and secured it and 
the area around it by 1540. 

Although Philippeville had been the target for the entire day's 
advance and Pz.R.25 was isolated from the mass of the division 
still delayed behind it, Rommel led the tanks farther west. He was 
quickly halted by strong French resistance organized around nu- 
merous machine guns and antitank guns in defensible terrain 
about 4 km from the city. Requiring infantry and artillery to con- 
tinue the advance and still isolated from the mass of the division, 
Rommel personally drove with reinforced Pz.Kp. Schulz [Panzer 
Company Schulz] back towards Philippeville to bring forward the 
rest of the division. 

Furious fighting developed between 1730-1900 15 May 40 as a 
result of this move. Pz.Kp.Schulz and the advanced elements of 
Pz.A.A.37, with which it had linked up, destroyed 13 French tanks 
and captured intact 20 additional ones. French armor had been all 



18 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

over the roads and fields between Rommel, Pz.R.25 and the rest of 
the division, but finally had been eliminated. 

At 1900, now in a familiar pattern of continuing action and 
movement into the evening, the division commander brought for- 
ward the foremost elements of the mass of the division— specifical- 
ly, M.G.Btl.8 [Machine Gun Battalion 8, attached to 7.Pz.D. from 
corps troops]— in the area just broken through by the tanks of 
Pz.R.25 around Senzeille 6 km west of Philippeville. Rommel sited 
M.G.Btl.8 in defensive positions in support of the tanks of Pz.R.25. 
He closed up the division in preparation for a continuation of the 
advance through the fortifications of the French extension of the 
Maginot Line along the French-Belgian border. 7.Pz.D. had pas- 
sed through another day of heavy combat with 15 men killed and 
56 wounded. The division had taken 450 prisoners and destroyed 
or captured 75 French tanks. The division had left the rest of the 
German army far behind on this day; 5.Pz.D. was engaged in a 
tank battle near the Meuse at Flavion approximately 25 km to the 
rear of the 7.Pz.D. units west of Senzeille. Rommel and his opera- 
tions staff on 15 May 23 had no contact with and no longer even 
knew the whereabouts of 32.1. D. on their left. Rommel's boldness 
and that of his commanders on that day would be matched only by 
the success they would achieve on the following day. 

At 0400 on 16 May 40, Pz.A.A.37, under Major Erdmann, 
occupied Froidchapelle in preparation for the attack later in the 
day through the French frontier fortifications and deep behind the 
Allied forces in Belgium. At 1430, in accordance with the order of 
Hoth as commanding general of XV.A.K. (mot.), Rommel moved 
the division toward the French fortified zone and the city of 
Avesnes, approximately 35 km from Froidchapelle on the other 
side of the frontier defenses. Preceded by Pz.AA.37, the division 
occupied the Belgian town of Sivry close to the border and concen- 
trated A.R.78 (Artillerie Regiment 78) and a battery of 37mm Flak to 
support the attack. Rommel positioned Pz.R.25 in Sivry close to 
the head of the division and then sent Pz.A.A37 over the French 

23 Ibid., Fr. 000689. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 19 



Marine Corps University 

border. At 1800, Pz.R.25, accompanied by Rommel moved out in 
the attack on the French fortified zone. At Clairfoyts, 2 km into 
France, the Panzer regiment ran into the French fortifications. 
The battle was on. 

After approximately 5 hours of combat led by pioneers, K.7 
and Pz.A.A.37, the division had worked its way through the last 
road obstacles west of Clairfoyts. At 2300 almost in the middle of 
the night, Rommel personally led a powerful Vorausabteilung (ad- 
vanced detachment) of the division consisting of K.7 (minus one 
company), Pz.A.A.37, and Pz.R.25, into France west of Clairfoyts. 
Increasing the tempo once again, motorcycles, armored reconnais- 
sance cars, and tanks advanced at 2300. Division artillery screened 
their flanks and carpeted the roads and villages in front of the ad- 
vanced detachment with fire. As Rommel and the strong advanced 
detachment reached within approximately 10 km of the day's tar- 
get, the city of Avesnes, it came under flanking fire from French ar- 
tillery in positions on both sides of the route of advance. According 
to the German combat record of the confrontation, this dangerous 
barrage was silenced by "broadsides out of the barrels of all of the 
weapons" while the column continued to drive along the road. 
This bold action was vintage Rommel. It was probably based on 
his experience of World War I from which he had extracted the 
rule that in a meeting engagement the side wins that fires first the 
most rounds in the direction of the enemy. 25 

Minutes later, at about 2300, Pz.R.25 thrust into the rear of a 
column of a French mechanized division with large numbers of 
enemy motorized troops and tanks in parking areas alongside the 
road. Maintaining the same tempo, and continuing to fire from the 
road, the tanks of Pz.R.25 moved through the middle of French 
troops no longer able to offer effective resistance to the Germans 
with their surprise presence deep in a supposedly secure rear area. 

<-&~*-&^<^~*<&^ 

24 

l.Pz.D., la, Kurzberichte: Der Kampfim Westen, Mai-Juni 1940, U.S. Archives, German Rec- 
ords, Divisions, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 000691. 

25 

See in General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Infantry Attacks (Quantico, VA, 1956), p. 

109. This work is a reprint of a 1943 translation oilnfanterie Greift an originally published in 

Potsdam in 1937. 



20 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

At midnight and now 75 km west of the Meuse, the tanks of 
Pz.R.25 with Rommel among them drove through the streets of 
Avesnes and seized the heights to the west of it. The French 
around Avesnes collapsed. Under Major Crasemann, II./A.R.78, 
for example, which had managed to stay close behind Pz.R.25 cap- 
tured 48 French tanks intact. Many French troops fled weaponless 
to the north and south spreading panic and uncertainty among 
other troops. German casualties, which had been heavy in the 
tough fighting at the Meuse (e.g., from 12-15 May 40 totalling 150 
KIA, 481 WIA, and 6 MIA), fell to four killed and 16 wounded for 
16 May 40. 26 The Germans would capture approximately 6,000 
French troops in the following morning hours of 17 May. 27 (See 
Figures 12 and 13 for a running account of German and French 
losses on pages 28 and 29). 

On 16 May 40, 7.Pz.D. had contact with its neighboring units 
to the north and south only through radio transmissions, and 
32.1.D. now approximately 45 km behind 7.Pz.D. could no longer 
really be considered a "neighboring unit." Since the onset of dark- 
ness on the evening of 16 May 40, to compound matters, there had 
been no radio contact between the division commander up front 
with the tanks of Pz.R.25, or the operations staff of the division or 
the artillery or Schtz.Brig.7 (Schutzen Brigade 7, a headquarters el- 
ement controlling S.R.7 and S.R.6). The situation developed into 
an impressive illustration of the chance and uncertainty of war- 
essentially chaos — and the way in which a leader of genius using a 
military system of superior merit brought success out of chaos. 

No longer in contact with Rommel, and not imagining he had 
already seized Avesnes, Schtz.Brig.7 moved its headquarters and 
S.R.6 into rest positions near Sivry, approximately 20 km back 
from Rommel's actual location in and around Avesnes. The bri- 
gade also directed S.R.7 into rest positions where it was located 

26 Ibid., Gefangenen und Beute, Fn. 000857. 

See the summary in, 7Pz.D., la, Geschichte der 7Pz.Div., Kurzer Abriss uber den Einsatz im 
Westen, 9. Mai-19. Juni, 1940, Verluste der 7. Panzer-Division, U.S. Archives, German Records, 
Division, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 000859. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 21 



Marine Corps University 



DATE 




KIA 






W1A 




MIA 







NCO 





NCO E 





NCO E 


10 May 


- 


1 


1 


1 


- 


7 


- 


- 


11 May 


- 


- 


3 


- 


1 


6 


- 


1 2 


12 May 


3 


6 


15 


5 


8 


33 


- 


- 


13 May 


4 


7 


49 


15 


40 


167 


- 


1 5 


14 May 


3 


7 


41 


10 


33 


114 


- 


- 


15 May 


- 


- 


15 


1 


12 


43 


- 


- 


16 May 


- 


- 


4 


1 


5 


10 


- 


- 


17 May 


2 


6 


28 


3 


18 


38 


- 


- 


18 May 


4 


9 


22 


6 


13 


51 


- 


7 


19 May 





5 


10 


1 


1 


26 


- 


2 7 


20 May 


1 


5 


45 


1 


20 


116 


- 


5 


21 May 


7 


17 


65 


4 


26 


86 


1 


24 148 


22 May 


3 


1 


14 


1 


3 


32 


1 


1 45 


23 May 


- 


1 


19 


- 


3 


17 


- 


- 


24 May 


1 


1 


9 


1 


5 


52 


1 


2 3 


25 May 


- 


- 


1 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


26 May 


1 


3 


9 


2 


11 


30 


- 


2 


27 May 


1 


4 


30 


3 


19 


72 


- 


- 


28 May 


2 


- 


7 


1 


4 


12 


- 


- 


29 May 


- 


- 


2 


1 


- 


13 


- 


3 


30 May 


- 


- 


3 


- 


- 


3 


- 


1 


31 May 


- 


- 


- 


- 


3 


- 


- 


- 


1 June 


- 


1 


- 


- 


- 


1 


- 


- 


2-4 June 


. 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


5 June 


3 


10 


55 


6 


29 


119 


- 


- 


6 June 


3 


8 


10 


4 


11 


41 


- 


- 


7 June 


- 


- 


4 


- 


3 


11 


- 


- 


8-9 June 


3 


4 


11 


1 


10 


16 


- 


- 


10 June 


- 


. 


3 


2 


8 


25 


- 


. 


11 June 


2 


3 


15 


1 


5 


28 


- 


- 


12 June 


2 


5 


20 


1 


9 


27 


- 


- 


13 June 


- 


1 


- 


- 


3 


- 


- 


2 


14 June 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


15 June 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


16 June 





1 


6 


3 


1 


8 


- 


- 


17-19 June 


3 


2 


18 


2 


12 


47 


- 


- 


20-21 June 


- 


- 


1 


- 


1 


1 


- 


- 


22 June 


- 


- 


1 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 




48 


108 


536 


77 


317 1252 


3 


34 227 



Figure 12. Casualties of 7.Pz.D. In Battle of France (10 May - 22 
June 40) 



22 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



DATE 


PRISONERS 


GUNS 


TANKS 


AT GUNS AIRCRAFT 






(Incl. AA) 








10 May 


30 


_ 


_ 


_ 


1 


11 May 


13 


- 


- 


- 


2 


12 May 


10 


- 


4 


3 


2 


13 May 


345 


- 


4 


- 


6 


14 May 


160 


8 


7 


4 


- 


15 May 


450 


18 


75 


- 


3 


16 May 


- 


- 


- 


- 


- 


17 May 


10,000 


27 


100 


- 


2 


18 May 


100 


- 


5 


- 


22 


19 May 


650 


- 


- 


- 


1 


20 May 


500 


- 


5 


5 


6 


21 May 


50 


- 


43 


- 


1 


22 May 


50 


- 


16 


- 


4 


23 May 


50 


- 


11 


- 


- 


24 May 


50 


- 


10 


- 


- 


25 May 


20 


- 


- 


- 


- 


26 May 


190 


- 


2 


- 


- 


27 May 


600 


12 


15 


- 


- 


28 May 


950 


23 


10 


- 


- 


29 May 


150 


- 


- 


- 


- 


5 June 


1,000 


52 


5 


30 


_ 


6 June 


1,500 


- 


24 


- 


6 


7 June 


1,500 


16 


- 


- 


4 


8-9 June 


1.400 


12 


10 


- 


15 


10 June 


500 


13 


24 


- 


_ 


11 June 


1,200 


- 


- 


- 


- 


12 June 


46,000 


73 


58 


22 


4 


17-19 June 


30,000 


23 


- 


_ 


_ 




97,468 


277 


428 


64 


79 



Figure 13. Allied Losses in Combat With 7.Pz.D. (10 May 
June 40) 



19 



even farther to the rear. Hoth, XV.A.K. (mot.), also out of contact 
with Rommel, ordered 7.Pz.D. to resume the attack against 
Avesnes. As this chaotic situation developed— chaotic in the sense 
of being based on false (and irrelevant) premises — Rommel re- 
mained in touch with operational reality and the opportunity and 
danger of the situation. He was able to ignore the operational dan- 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



23 



Marine Corps University 

gers and seize the operational opportunity because of his location 
with the leading elements of a division on the offensive. During the 
course of the night, he had no "exchange of ideas" with the la and 
had only the most general impression of where the mass of the di- 
vision was located; nevertheless, he resolved with characteristic in- 
itiative to continue the attack to the west with the entire division 
before the break of day. He intended to seize the bridge over the 
Sambre River at Landrecies 18 km farther to the west and hold it 
open for the rest of the German army. 

In the meantime, the French revived in Avesnes. Pz.R.25 with 
K7 and Pz A.A.37 faced several hours of street fighting and mech- 
anized attack in the immediate countryside in which the German 
37mm PAK and tank guns had little effect against the strong armor 
of the French tanks. The Germans finally mastered this crisis with 
the intervention of Panzer IV tanks of Pz.R.25 from the rear firing 
the stronger armor piercing ammunition from the short 75mm 
cannon on those tanks. Rommel, Rothenburg and the strong ad- 
vanced detachment of the division attacked at 0530 17 May 40 to- 
ward Landrecies and immediately ran into columns of French mo- 
tor vehicles both on and alongside of the road used for the ad- 
vance. Astonished by the presence of the German tanks and 
motorcyclists, the French soldiers gave up in large numbers and 
slowed the German advance by their "administrative" presence 
and crowding along the road. The advanced detachment, nonethe- 
less, reached Landrecies at approximately 0600 and took the 
bridge over the Sambre River undamaged. 

Oberst Rothenburg thrust beyond the Sambre to the communi- 
cations center at Le Cateau 10 km farther west where the advance 
came to a halt on the eastern outskirts of that city. At this juncture, 
Rommel was forced to acknowledge that between Landrecies and 
Le Cateau he had only two tiring tank battalions of Pz.R.25 and 
part of K.7. The rest of the advanced detachment — Pz.A.A.37 and 
the remainder of K.7 and the tanks — were in the area from 
Landrecies back towards Avesnes, and the mass of the division 
still somewhere east of Landrecies, i.e., approximately 30-50 km 
distant from Rothenburg and his tanks in the foremost positions. 
In this uncomfortable situation requiring a shift to the defensive to 



24 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

consolidate the finger projecting deeply behind the Allied armies 
in Belgium, Rommel drove back from the advanced positions in 
an armored reconnaissance vehicle 28 km to Avesnes. Now in ra- 
dio and physical contact with the mass of the division, he pushed 
forward S.R.6, S.R.7, and the division artillery of A.R.78 to defend 
the area of the projecting linger. 

On the afternoon of 17 May 40, Hoth compounded Rommel's 
difficult situation through a directive that showed ^brilliant flexibil- 
ity on the part of that operationally agile and bold commander. As 
corps commander, Hoth ordered 7.Pz.D. to take the bridge over 
the Sambre at Berlaimont 13 km northwest of Avesnes in a direc- 
tion eccentric to the main attack of the division westward through 
Le Cateau. Hoth gave the division the mission to seize the bridge 
there and hold it open so that 5.Pz.D., Rommel's neighbor to the 
north and still about a day behind 7.Pz.D. would have the oppor- 
tunity to catch up and advance parallel with and adjacent to 
Rommel. The operations staff, 7.Pz.D., sent off I./S.R.6 under 
Oberleutnant Kiessling reinforced by II./A.R.78, a modest sized task 
force that would successfully accomplish its mission and inciden- 
tally contribute to Kiessling winning the E.K. I that day. Advanced 
elements of 5.Pz.D. moved into the bridgehead during the evening 
of 17 May 40. Generalmajor Lemelsen, the commander of 5.Pz.D., 
would appear to have closed the distance between the two Panzer 
divisions by getting advanced elements across the Sambre by that 
time. In actuality, by the same time, Rommel had concentrated the 
mass of 7.Pz.D. close to the Sambre and still lay effectively about 
30 km west of his neighbor. 

Rommel and 7.Pz.D. advanced with a style that is brought out 
in some of the message traffic of 17 May 40. Similarly to his request 
for air attack out in front of the division along its route of advance 
in the run through Philippeville two days earlier, Rommel would 
request through XV.A.K. (mot.) Stukas out in front of his advance 
(See Figures 14, 15, in appendix). Rommel seems to have seen spe- 
cial, useful effects through disorganization and scattering of 
French units along the route of advance and especially the sup- 
pression of the highly regarded French artillery. During darkness 
at 0325, Rommel sent a message that nicely illustrates the style of a 



Perspectives On Warfighting 25 



Marine Corps University 

successful commander of a mobile division in the attack. Rommel 
sent the succinct, decisive message somewhat ominously as being 
from the "General" and to the Division Command Post. In it, the 
sender states simply: "Rommel up front in a tank." (See Figure 16, 
in appendix.) At the time Rommel was forward personally seeing 
to the details of getting the attack going on schedule at 0430 and 
transferring a sense of urgency to all those around him. The com- 
manding general of 7.Pz.Div. held the initiative against a tough 
but badly shaken enemy. He was forward in a tank with the most 
advanced element of the division: no man around him could 
doubt that great events were about to unfold. 

The situation had its advantages and disadvantages. Rommel 
stood completely free of the command post bureaucracy modest 
though it was in 7.Pz.D. and its distance from the shooting, but he 
was also out of contact with his own operations staff and the rest of 
the division, his neighbors, and corps headquarters. Combat 
against the enemy, as opposed to contact with staffs and headquar- 
ters, would take place with the tanks of Pz.R.25. Rommel advanced 
with those tanks and forced combat on the French at a time and 
place of his choosing. Physically located in the middle of the deci- 
sive combat taking place in the sector of 7.Pz.D., Rommel could 
make decisions fast — decisions that also would be in touch with 
the realities of combat at the crucial point in the battle. The road to 
defeat is probably paved more thickly with missed opportunity 
than any other factor; Rommel and 7.Pz.D. let few combat 
opportunities slip away from them because: "Rommel up front in a 
tank." 

Hoth at the command post of XV.A.K. (mot.) ordered 7.Pz.D. 
to attack through Le Cateau toward Cambrai at 0900 18 May 40. 
The French, however, fought back vigorously around Pommereuil 
(between Landrecies and Le Cateau) and Headquarters XV.A.K. 
(mot.) ordered 7.Pz.D. to shift its axis of advance south to allow 
5.Pz.D. to begin to move from Landrecies through Le Cateau. 
Hard working and successful, 7.Pz.D. had been directed earlier to 
seize bridgeheads over the Sambre at Landrecies and Berlaimont 
on 16 May 40. Corps headquarters now, in effect, directed 7.Pz.D. 
to turn over those crossing to the slower 5.Pz.D. and shift its axis of 



26 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

advance to new sites south of Landrecies. Without a chance of 
meeting the 0900 time for an attack around Le Cateau, Rommel or- 
dered S.R.7 and Pz.A.A.37 each (i.e., two axes for the new attack 
over the Sambre) at a different location to make a crossing of the 
river. These attacks met strong resistance and required pioneer 
support. In the meantime, S.R.6 around Pommereuil encountered 
strong resistance also in its attempt to finish off scattered French 
forces still capable of organized resistance in the midst of the divi- 
sion there. 

Rommel began the main advance west not until around 1700 
18 May 40 and organized it around two battle groups. He directed 
Pz.R.25, K.7 and I./S.r. 6 reinforced with artillery and Flak to at- 
tack north of Route Nationale 39 with the objective to seize the com- 
munications center of Cambrai. S.R. 7 was directed to advance out 
of its new bridgehead farther south and attack towards Cambrai 
parallel with Route Nationale 39 and just south of it. Although 
Pz.R.25 had been momentarily weakened by fuel and tank ammu- 
nition shortages, the attack immediately made good progress. 
While Pz.R.25 thrust into the outskirts of Cambrai by the onset of 
darkness (approximately 2100), Rommel ordered K.7 and I./S.R. 6 
under Major von Paris and reinforced by a few tanks and a Flak 
platoon to skirt Cambrai to the north and seize the bridges over 
the L'Escant Canal there. The attack succeeded. Pz.R.25 met 
difficulties, however, with strong obstacles in the outskirts of 
Cambrai and pulled out of the city directly to the east. In the 
meantime during the night, S.R. 7 took the area immediately to the 
southeast and south of Cambrai. 7.Pz.D. had bowled over the 
French again in a late afternoon and early evening advance. 

The situation remained fluid, tense, and uncertain, neverthe- 
less, as the Germans faced strong French counterattacks with 
tanks 24 km back from Cambrai around Le Cateau. With tough 
persistence, the French mounted tank and infantry attacks from 
the north against Landrecies, the original bridgehead across the 
Sambre. The latter attacks threatened the whole German position 
west of the river forcing the Division la {Major i G. Heidkamper) to 
commit an entire pioneer battalion (Pi.Btl.624 from corps troops) 
to the defense in support of II./S.R. 6 and most of the division artil- 

Perspectives On Warfighting 27 



Marine Corps University 



lery. Shifting to the defensive everywhere by around midnight, the 
division also faced a difficult night in getting through fuel and am- 
munition to the forward elements at Cambrai. Map 2, in appendix, 
illustrates the situation on the evening of 18 May 40 as sketched in 
on a 1:25,000 scale map by the la of the division. 28 

The sketch shows the extraordinary situation created by the 
success of 7.Pz.D.. The adjacent division to the south— now 
12.1.D. — lay 52 km behind the motorcyclists and motorized infan- 
try of 7.Pz.D. now west of the L'Escant Canal. The 5.Pz.D. still lay 
along the Sambre in a large bridgehead 29 km behind the units of 
its neighbor across the canal. The powerful German armored 
forces in Panzer-Gruppe Kleist would soon move in alongside of 
Rommel's division to the south of it. Kleist's forces in XIXA.K. 
(mot.) shown on the map as 2.Pz.D., l.Pz.D., and 29. (mot.) lay 
roughly as far west as Rommel's division but would be outstripped 
again by the advance of 7.Pz.D. on 20 May 40. The German army, 
in effect, advanced along two main axes in terms of actual success 
achieved — the intended main axis of Panzer-Gruppe Kleist and 
specifically XIX.A.K. (mot.) {General der Panzertruppe H. Gud- 
erian) and the unintended but equally successful advance of 
7.Pz.D.. As Map 2 suggests, the German penetrations served to 
break up the French front. 

During the long daylight hours of 19 May 40, 7.Pz.D. prepared 
for a continuation of the attack westward to Arras and then north- 
west to the English Channel. Rommel ordered S.R. 7 which had 
seized the area south of Cambrai to establish another bridgehead 
across the L'Escant Canal in order for the division to continue its 
attack along two axes. The regiment succeeded in the afternoon in 
crossing the canal and establishing a bridgehead just to the south- 
west of Cambrai. By 1800 19 May 40, 8.Pz.D. had moved up along- 
side of 7.Pz.D. with its right flank now about 5 km south of 
Cambrai. Farther to the rear, Pz.AA.37 which had been screening 
7.Pz.D. to the south of Le Cateau was relieved by a Waffen S.S. regi- 

28 

l.Pz.D., la, Geschichte der 7.Pz.Div., Kurzer Abriss uber den Einsatz im Westen, 9 Mai-19 Juni, 

1940, Lage an 18.5 abends, U.S. Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 

000788. 



28 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

ment, one of several formed in time to fight in France and a high 
quality, fully motorized unit. Pz.A.A.34 moved west to Cambrai to 
join in the post-midnight attack of the division toward Arras. 

At 0140 20 May 40, 7.Pz.D. moved out of its bridgeheads north 
and south of Cambrai in an advance along French national route 
39 to Arras. Rommel organized the attacking division into two col- 
umns with Pz.R.25 as the mass of the northern column. Using the 
term, "escort" to describe his presence with Rothenburg at Pz.R.25, 
Rommel moved out personally with the tanks in the attack. The 
great obstacle to be negotiated in order to get to Arras was the Ca- 
nal du Nord 10 km west of Cambrai at Marquion. The German 
tanks reached the canal before daybreak at 0300 but an alert An- 
glo-French security force blew up the bridge in the face of Pz.R.25. 
Two hours later several kilometers south of Marquion, the Ger- 
man tank units managed to seize an intact bridge and push across 
the canal. The tanks were accompanied by the SJ.G. Kompanie 
(heavy Infantry Gun Company, or sJ.G.Kp.) of Hauptmann Fisch- 
er, a special unit of 105mm "infantry guns" or in artillery parlance, 
howitzers. The guns were mounted in armored boxes on the 
tracked chassis of the Panzer I 5-ton training tank of the 1930s. 
About two hours later, Pz.R.25 and the self propelled heavy infan- 
try guns reached Beaurains, 3 km directly south af Arras. Rommel, 
who had personally escorted the advance, ordered the tank regi- 
ment to stop there when it became evident that the mass of the di- 
vision had not followed the tanks. 

Protected by a tank and an armored reconnaissance car, 
Rommel, the division commander himself, set out to the rear to 
find out the reason for the broken connection and bring forward 
the mass of the division. Approximately halfway back to the Canal 
du Nord, Rommel and his security element encountered French 
heavy tanks which knocked out both of the German armored vehi- 
cles. Rommel and his remaining radio and security personnel sur- 
vived by lying low while surrounded by French tanks and infantry 
for several hours. Later in the morning, the rest of 7.Pz.D. would 
advance through the town of Vis en Artois where Rommel's de- 
tachment had been hit, and Rommel would be saved. Map 3 in ap- 
pendix illustrates the situation of the division in the campaign at 

Perspectives On Warfighting 29 



Marine Corps University 



approximately 0700 20 May 40 or the time that Rommel was at- 
tacked. 29 The map shows a long fingerlike projection that illus- 
trates the special qualities of Rommel in keeping forces on the of- 
fensive moving. It also shows a long northern flank exposed to 
strong Anglo-French forces retreating toward the Belgian coast but 
tempted to breakthrough southward into France. 

For the remainder of the day, 7.Pz.D. fought off counter-at- 
tacks from the north and organized a defense of the exposed 
northern flank. The operations staff requested a Waffen S.S. battal- 
ion from the S.S. Division Totenkopf (Death's Head Division) newly 
constituted and in process of being inserted in combat on the west- 
ern front bewtwen 7. and 8.pz.D.. The operations staff would use 
the Waffen S.S. battalion to fill in the "lengthening" northern flank 
of 7.Pz.D.. During the remainder of 20 May 40, K.7 and Pz.AA37 
would endure severe counterattacks from the north, Pi.B.58 would 
construct a 16-ton capacity bridge over the Canal du Nord, and 
Rommel would begin to organize a great final dash around Arras 
and on to the coast now only about 87 km away. The day had been 
another one of tough fighting— the division had lost another 51 
men killed, 137 wounded, and 5 missing in action. Heavy 
casualties such as these support a view that the French Campaign 
involved severe combat and contradict the view that the Germans 
had a quick, easy campaign. The campaign was quick but costly 
and challenging with severe fighting. 

Rommel exchanged messages with various elements of the di- 
vision on 20 May 40; these messages help bring the German style 
of advance into focus. The attack from Cambrai to Arras began in 
total darkness at 0140 and shortly afterward at 0202 Rommel was 
positioned 8.5 km east of the bridge across the Canal du Nord west 
of the outskirts of Cambrai. Rommel and the tanks of Pz.R.25 un- 
der Rothenburg advanced through darkness and French re- 
sistance to reach Marquion and the disaster of a destroyed bridge 
over the canal. Rommel's brief message to the division command 

29 

7Pz.D., la, Geschichte der 7.Pz.Div., Kurzer Abriss uber den Einsatz im Westen, 9 Mai-19 Juni, 

1940, Lage c. 0700 20.5.40, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 4-1, Fr. 

000794. 



30 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

post says it all. In a message of almost the same time Rommel 
queries the command post on the location of S.R.6 and S.R.7 
which were supposed to be advancing alongside of Pz.R.25 in the 
southern column of the attacking force. By 0355, facing the disaster 
of being completely stopped by the water barrier, and wasting few 
words, Rommel ordered Rothenburg and Pz.R.25 into position to 
the south of the bridge to attempt to force a crossing and Major von 
Paris, I./S.R.6 accompanying the tank-heavy column, to move into 
positions to the north. Note the ultra brief, urgent style of com- 
mand (See Figures 17, 18, 19, in appendix): 



MESSAGE 


Date 


Time 


From-To 


Message Wording 


20.5 


0202 


General 
to Div Staff 


Rommel 34 2 einhalb km rechts, 
(Rommel located 34 2 1/2 km right) 30 


20.5 


0300 


General 
to Div Staff 


Rommel Wo 6 and 7 (Rommel Where 
are S.R.6 and S.R.7?). 31 


20.5 


0305 


General 
to Div Staff 


Rommel 44 1/2 Brucke gesprengt 100 
Gefangen Keine Gegenwehr (Rom- 
mel 44 1/2 bridge blown up 100 pris- 
oners no resistance). 32 



In the first message, Rommel personally told the division staff 
that he was located forward in the field at 34 km along the thrust line 
of the day and 2.5 km to the right of it. Rommel was moving with his 



<^"> <-^>^^%<^v 



7Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Krlegstagebuch: Operationsakten. 20.5.40, Nr. 109, U.S. Archives, 
German Records, Divisions, T-315, Role 403, Fr. 000006. 



31 



Ibid., Nr. 112, Fr. 000013. 



32 



Ibid., Nr. 116. Fr. 000022. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



31 



Marine Corps University 

own radio vehicle and also using Pz.R.25 radios as appropriate. In 
the second message, Rommel asked for the location of S.R.6 and 
S.R.7. The time of the message (0300) is important; he had just en- 
countered the destroyed bridge over the canal and wanted to know 
immediately the location of the motorized infantry regiments in or- 
der to exploit any possibilities in their advance farther south. In the 
last message, in the absence of a written record of the location of the 
thrust line for the day, he told future analysts exactly where point 44 
1/2 lay on the thrust line toward Arras, namely, at the bridge over the 
Canal du Nord at Marquion. Rommel also told us that no resistance 
was being encountered, doubling the irony of a successfully blown 
bridge, i.e., the enemy had successfully destroyed the bridge but had 
prepared no resistance on the French side. Rommel had to move 
fast to exploit this fleeting opportunity. One senses this in the follow- 
ing messages (Figures 20, 21, 22, 23, in appendix): 



MESSAGE 


Date 


Time 


From-To 


Message Wording 


20.5 


0400 


General 


Rommel Pioniere nach vorne (Rom- 






to Div Staff 


mel directs: Pioneers to the front). 33 


20.5 


0415 


General 


Rommel Teile der Artillerie in Stel- 






to Div Staff 


lung bringen in Linie 43 1 km rechts 
bis 43 2 km links. (Rommel directs: 
bring part of the artillery into position 
43 right 1 to 43 left 2). 34 



<^V^%<^K^> 



7Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch: Operationsakten. 20.5.40, Nr. 117, U.S. Archives, 
German Records, Division, T-315, Roll 403, Fr. 000025. 



34 



Ibid., Nr. 118, Fr. 000028. 



32 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



MESSAGE 


Date 


Time 


From-To 


Message Wording 


20.5 


0445 


Artillery 


Craseman geht 43 links in Stellung, 






Commander 


welchen Auftrag? (Major Crasemann 






to The General 


has gone into position 43 left, what is 
the mission?). 35 


20.5 


0530 


General 


Rommel Bruckenbau 44 1/2 dringend 






to Div Staff 


notig. Pion. beschleunigt durchfuhren. 
Rommel jetzt 46 1 km links geht vor- 
warts (Rommel sends: bridge con- 
struction urgently necessary. Pio- 
neers expedite moving up. Rommel 
presently at 46 1 km left goes for- 
ward).^ 



To get to Arras on 20 May 40, Rommel and 7.Pz.D. had to use 
their developing style of the daily, quick, indeed almost "instanta- 
neous " bound forward. At 0300, Rommel was in serious trouble 
for the day facing a navigable canal, i.e., a deep water obstacle with 
specially constructed obstacle-like banks and, of course, no fords, 
with the bridge to his front destroyed. Rommel and the division de- 
pended for their success on a special tempo of operational move- 
ment; immobility and a well advertised presence made the division 
a magnet for enemy reserves and accompanying counterattacks. 
Rommel immediately ordered the two heavy maneuver elements 
of his column, to deploy around the destroyed bridge, Pz.R.25 to 
the south and I./S.R.6 to the north, and find a crossing. As Rommel 
discovered that S.R.6 and 7 were not alongside to the south, the 
search widened to the south for a crossing. He also realized the 
fundamental necessity to get bridges built and repaired at 
Marquion as soon as possible. With inimitable brevity Rommel di- 
rected "pioneers to the front." 



35 Ibid., Nr. 121, Fr. 000032. 
36 Ibid., Nr. 123, Fr. 000035. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 33 



Marine Corps University 



As the division momentarily began to face the problem of a 
possible opposed river crossing, Rommel began to prepare for the 
worst. As a commander of a mobile force in a hurry and sur- 
rounded by chaos both potential and immediate, Rommel directed 
the division staff (essentially the la and the "artillery commander") 
with inspiring regard for their competence, to bring into position 
"part of the artillery" anywhere it chose in a general area des- 
ignated by him. Everyone seems to speak the same language. With 
equally inspiring regard for the urgency of the situation transferred 
by the division commander, the artillery commander moves first 
and then, as laconically as Rommel, queries: "What's the mis- 
sion?" About 15 minutes after this exchange, Pz.R.25 discovered 
and began to move across a passable bridge several kilometers to 
the south of Marquion. Shortly after the beginning of the passage 



7.Pz.D. Message 


Date 


Time 


Rommel's Location 

(on Division Thrust Line) 


20.5 


0113 


34 Rommel near Cambrai 


20.5 


0550 


34 Rommel near Cambrai 


20.5 


0606 


c.44 Rommel at Marquion 


20.5 


0620 


44 Rommel still at Marquion 


20.5 


0650 


46 Rommel just south N39 enroute Arras 


20.5 


0754 


50 Rommel just south N39 enroute Arras 


20.5 


0202 


57 Rommel west of Vis en Artois 


20.5 


0305 


71 Rommel west of Vis en Artois 


20.5 


0501 


58 Rommel west of Vis en Artois 



34 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

of the canal at about 0500, Rommel sent a wordy message by his 
standards reiterating the "urgent necessity" for pioneers and a 
passable big bridge at Marquion on the direct route to Arras. 

At this point a remarkable advance began which sheds light 
on the German style in offensive operations. On 20 May 40, 
7.Pz.D., from 0100-2400 on that day, would advance from Cambrai 
to the area just west of Arras. The Germans moved during that 
readily gauged period — one day — an impressive 40 km. The Ger- 
mans played an operational trick during this day because most of 
it they spent organizing defenses to the north, fighting off counter- 
attacks, and generally tidying up in the area of their surge forward. 

The times show Rommel leading an advance from Cambrai to 
Marquion on the Canal du Nord 10 km forward in a scant, approxi- 
mate 1.5 hours. The Germans were then delayed for about 2 hours 
looking for a passable crossing of the canal. Once Rothenburg in 
Pz.R.25 found that crossing, he, Rommel, and the tanks and self 
propelled infantry guns accelerated an astounding 27 km (i.e., 
from 34 on the division thrust line to 71) to Beaurains by 0650 or 
approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes after crossing the canal. The 
analysis shows that during the 24-hour or "one-day" period in 
which 7.Pz.D. gets historical credit for advancing from Cambrai to 
Arras, the advance took place largely from 0500 to 0650. 

The following day, 21 May 40, Headquarters XXXIX.A.K. 
(mot.), now in control of 7.Pz.D., ordered the division to attack 
around Arras to the west of it and then head directly north toward 
the English Channel. Generalleutnant Schmidt ordered the attack 
for 1030 and the division moved out promptly, with Pz.R.25 lead- 
ing, followed by Pz.R6 in column to the right and Pz.R.7 in col- 
umn to the left. As had been the case since the first day of the cam- 
paign, 7.Pz.D. almost immediately formed a deep penetration into 
enemy country with no German neighbors to the east (Arras) or 
west. Directly to the rear of the division lay 5.Pz.D. in no position 
to advance behind 7.Pz.D. and provide support. To the left of 
7.Pz.D., loosely connected, somewhat behind, and concerned 
about its own front lay the mildly nervous, untried, but tough and 
aggressive new Waffen S.S. Division Totenkopf. By 1530 21 May 40, 



Perspectives On Warfighting 35 



Marine Corps University 

7.Pz.D had formed another deep fingerlike projection now head- 
ing north northwest and approximately 10 km long. 

At that moment, strong British and French forces attacked 
7.Pz.D.'s lengthy flank. The attack came across an impressively 
wide front of approximately 8 km. The Allied force attacked with 
about 144 tanks (74 British, 70 French) including a number of 
heavily armored British tanks that were impervious to the German 
standard 37mm Pak of the day. The Allied attack hit against the 
extremely extended units of S.R.6. Five batteries of 105mm light 
field howitzers from A.R.78. 1./S.R.6, under Major von Paris, took 
the most casualties of any German battalion-level organization 
and was partly overrun. The Allied forces that pushed through I./ 
S.R.6 ran into German artillery, Pak of Pz.Jg.42, units of S.R.7 and 
troops of the neighboring Waffen S.S. Division Totenkopf. The Allied 
forces did not run into any German tanks because virtually all of 
them were several kilometers to the north and well in advance of 
the motorized infantry. Between 1530 and 1900 21 May, 7.Pz.D. 
used direct artillery, Flak, and Pak fire to halt the Allied attack. Di- 
vision artillery, alone for example, succeeded in putting out of ac- 
tion 25 Allied tanks. As the attack developed, Rommel found him- 
self in the middle of it and personally organized the fire of numer- 
ous weapons including light Flak around him. Rommel also or- 
dered Oberst Rothenburg to turn about Pz.R.25 and attack the 
Allies on their northern flank. Rothenburg began his drive back 
down from north of the battle area about 2000, ran into a strong 
British defensive front and lost nine battle tanks (3 Panzer IV and 6 
Panzer 38(f)), but Rothenburg broke through and reached the area 
where the heaviest part of the Allied attack had originated. 
Rothenburg reached this area about 2300 21 May 40 and through 
this counterattack stabilized the German defenses. 

7.Pz.D. suffered heavy casualties in the fighting totalling 89 
KIA, 116 WIA, and 173 MIA. The figure for missing probably in- 
cludes mostly personnel captured with a significant percentage of 
those taken prisoner being wounded. The division lost nine battle 
tanks and approximately four additional light tanks. Characteristi- 
cally for the Germans, they claimed Allied losses with restraint 
and candor, for example 43 Allied tanks "destroyed," probably an 



36 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

accurate figure based on the Germans reoccupying the area in 
which the combat had taken place. Such was the balance of com- 
bat power in the campaign that 7.Pz.D. would go on the next 
morning to continue the drive north toward the English Channel 
and suffer both the success and frustration of the fighting around 
Dunkirk toward the end of May. 

7.Pz.D. would continue on in the French Campaign to great 
success in its attack across the Somme near the channel coast on 5 
June 40, the prevention of a little Dunkirk-style evacuation of Al- 
lied troops around St. Valery, and the dash from the Seine River to 
Cherbourg in the last days of the battle. By that time, however, the 
Germans had been so successful in their offensive particularly 
from 10-21 May 40, that it is difficult to grant the Allies much 
chance of survival in the campaign. The fairest time and most in- 
structive to gauge the German advance is probably during the time 
when the Allies were strongest in the campaign and the Germans 
still had appreciable chances of losing. The advance of 7.Pz.D. 
from about 12-21 May 40 should give analysts today insights into 
effective style and technique in war fighting. 

The entire campaign, of course, remains important and it is 
significant to note that the high command of the German Army 
(Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH) distributed a questionnaire at 
the end of the campaign to the Army Groups on the battle in the 
west. Army Group B, under which 7.Pz.D. was included at the end 
of the campaign, passed on the questionnaire to its subordinate 
units on 7 July 40 only a short time after the end of the fighting. 
7.Pz.D. answered the various questions in a report of 19 July 40 
that contains some interesting insights into the style of a German 
mobile formation. The German advance in the west can be likened 
in many ways to a long series of river crossings. Not surpris- 
ingly, the la, 7.Pz.Div. in presenting the experiences of the division 
dwelt on river crossing operations and presented the view that a 
mobile division must have two complete bridging columns in its 
pioneer company. The la pointed out that a mobile division would 
often be faced with crossing a second major water barrier before it 
could retrieve its bridging column set in place on the previous bar- 
rier. The la also presented the view that the motorized infantry reg- 



Perspectives On Warfighting 37 



Marine Corps University 

iments and motorcycle battalion should be equipped with light 
and heavy pneumatic rubber boats for flexibility in immediate ne- 
gotiation of water barriers by assault infantry and various light 
weapons and vehicles on rafts put together from those boats. 

In comments on maintaining communications amongst the 
various parts of the division, the la noted that the division com- 
mander positioned himself with the leading formation, most often 
the tank regiment, and found himself in the thick of combat. The la 
made the point that the combat operations staff and radio commu- 
nications personnel of the division commander must be "under 
armor" in such circumstances. This comment suggests that for a 
Marine division in a mobile offensive operation, the division com- 
mander must think in terms of a small combat staff around 
him with adequate communications in vehicles that have the "bat- 
tlefield mobility" to move and survive with the most mobile 
ground elements of the division. 

As the spearhead of the army in which it was organized, 
7.Pz.D. came under extensive air attack throughout the campaign. 
The organic and attached Flak units of the division, for example, 
are credited with shooting down 31 Allied aircraft in the brief peri- 
od examined in this study from 10-21 May 40. Assuming that these 
aircraft were engaged in attacks against the division and that larger 
numbers of attacking aircraft were not shot down, one can state 
that 7.Pz.D. came under heavy air attack during its advance by no 
fewer than 31 Allied aircraft and probably a much larger figure. 
Faced with this experience — heavy air attack but an impressive 
number of them shot down — the la noted that the division had ad- 
equate Flak in its war organization but that there was a pressing 
necessity for some kind of fighter detachment to be on station over 
the division. 

General der Infanterie (General of the Infantry, equivalent to 
U.S. Lieutenant General) Hermann Hoth, who commanded the 
German XV.A.K. (mot.), wrote a brief paper of 17 November 40 
summarizing the exploits of his corps in the French Campaign 
largely in terms of the performance of 7.Pz.D.. He notes though 
that the extraordinary achievements of 7.Pz.D. was only part of a 



■^ Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

larger whole: "the deed of the individual is silent; success and fail- 
ure of a particular troop unit is not decisive; above all, the signifi- 
cance of a success of arms reveals itself with relationship to the 
overall operation of the army. Indeed of the whole armed 
forces." 37 The statement reveals a lot about Hoth as a commander 
of a German armored corps [in 1940 still designated Army Corps 
(motorized) or A.K.(mot.)] and about the style and thinking 
processes of the German army. In it, Hoth warns the reader that 
the exploits of his corps, 7.Pz.D., and Rommel, are important 
predominately in terms of their contribution to overall victory in 
the Battle of France. In it, also, the German army reveals itself as 
one which placed a premium on officers like Hoth and Rommel, 
who visualized their actions in terms of the next higher command. 

The German army shows itself, then as one dedicated to ef- 
fects that contributed to the general mission. In that army, for ex- 
ample, combat soldiers won decorations according to a mission 
oriented logic: the army awarded decorations according to actions 
affecting the overall situation. German private soldiers did not get 
the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross, or rough equivalent of the U.S. 
Congressional Medal of Honor) for falling on hand grenades. Ex- 
cept on exceedingly rare occasion in the entire Second World War, 
German private soldiers were not awarded the Knight's Cross. 38 
The German army awarded it almost exclusively to officers, not for 
reasons of feudal sociology, but based on the ruthless and consis- 
tent logic that the higher decoration must reflect action affecting 
the accomplishment of the general mission. The Germany army 
would award the Knight's Cross to Rommel for leading 7.Pz.D. in 
the Battle of France. Its next lower decoration — the Eiserne Kreuz I 
(E.K. I or Iron Cross First Class)— was reserved largely for officers 



7.Pz.Div., la, Gefechts-und Erfahrungsberichte, 31.5.-29.11. 1940, Der Kommandierende General 
XVA.K., K. Gef. St., den 17.11.40, p. 1, U.S., National Archives, Records of German Field 
Commands, Divisions, Microcopy T-315, Roll 436, Frame 000619 [hereinafter, U.S., Ar- 
chives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll, Fr.] 

38 
In the Waffen S.S. which fought alongside of the army, numbering nearly 750,000 men at 

the end of World War II, and reflecting a decoration mentality more "democratic" than the 

army, the command authority awarded only a small percentage to private soldiers, i.e., U.S. 

equivalent of privates and corporals. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 39 



Marine Corps University 

and a handful of private soldiers in World War II. For the first 
great day of battle in the French Campaign, 13 May 40, comprising 
the crossing of the Meuse River, 7.Pz.D. would award 16 E.K. I dis- 
tributed as follows by rank: 



13 May 40, Crossing the Meuse, E.K. I Awards 

Officers 7 

Staff Sergeants 6 

Sergeants 3 

(Privates & Corporals) 

Total 16 



Operating in an army that emphasized the general picture in 
battle, Hoth goes on self-effacingly to state that the Hauptstoss, or 
major effort, of the entire German armed forces in the western of- 
fensive lay with the mobile divisions (i.e., the panzer and motor- 
ized infantry divisions) massed south of him under command of 
General der Kavallerie Ewald von Kleist in Panzer-Gruppe von Kleist 
(Panzer Group Kleist). Hoth makes it clear that his corps had the 
mission to protect the right flank of Panzer Group Kleist against 
an attack by powerful Allied forces that would be located farther 
north in Belgium. He notes specifically that such an attack "would 
bring into question the reaching of the channel coast," thus pre- 
venting the accomplishment of the overall mission of the armed 
forces, to seize Belgium by cutting off the Allied forces in that state 
from France and forcing their quick surrender. To contribute to 
the grand mission, Hoth pressed his two divisions— 7.Pz.D. and 
5.Pz.D. — to cross the Meuse quickly and drive deeply into the de- 
fending French forces. With some special insight into the ad- 
vances required to defeat the Allied forces in Belgium, Hoth 

39 

See in, l.Pz.D., la, Kurzberichte: Der Kampfim Westen, Mai-June 1940, U.S. Archives, Ger- 
man Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 000684. 

40 

w See in l.Pz.Div., la, Gefechts, 1940, XV. A. K., p. 1, U.S. Archives, German Records, Divi- 
sions, T-315, Roll 401, Fr. 000619. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



pressed his screening corps to match the pace of Kleist's campaign 
Schwerpunkt force of seven mobile divisions, also advancing to 
cross the Meuse farther south at Sedan. Throughout the advance, 
Hoth and his forces revealed again and again the speed, flexibility 
and opportunistic will at the heart of the German Army. They 
lived their bias for action. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 41 



Chapter II 

The 7th Panzer Division in the 
Russian Campaign, 
June-October 1941 



T 

JL he 7.Pz.D., after all it had accomplished in France, under 
Hoth and Rommel, faced even greater challenges in Russia. With 
Rommel's transfer, command of the 7.Pz.D. went to Generalmajor 
von Funck (commander of 5.Pz.R, 5.Pz.D. in France.) Quite 
astonishingly, the 7.Pz.D., led by Funck, met the greater challenges 
in Russia with even greater achievements. On the road to Moscow 
in 1941, the Germans fought three great encirclement battles; in 
each, 7.Pz.D. closed the northern arm of the envelopment and en- 
circled immense numbers of strategic Soviet Forces. In four short 
days, 22-25 June 41, 7.Pz.D. would move more than 345 km 
through the Soviet Union, cutting the main road and rail connec- 
tion between Minsk and Moscow at Smolevichi, 30 km east of 
Minsk. Two days later, 17.Pz.D. from the Panzer Group operating 
farther south would link up near Minsk and close the outer arms 
of an encirclement that would yield 324,000 prisoners and 3,332 de- 
stroyed or captured tanks. Starting to advance eastward again on 3 
July 41, 7.Pz.D. would move 365 Km cutting the main road and rail 
connection between Smolensk and Moscow at Jarcewo, 55 km east 
of Smolensk on 16 July 41. Over the next few days, elements of the 
Panzer Group operating farther south would link up between 
Smolensk and Jarcewo and effect an encirclement that would yield 
310,000 prisoners and 3,205 tanks. After Hitler's diversion of forces 
south in the months of August and September 41, 7.Pz.D. would 
advance again as part of a great offensive launched on 2 October 
41. Starting to advance on that day, 7.Pz.D. would reach the north- 
ern outskirts of Vyasma 106 hours later and linking up a short time 



Perspectives On Warfighting 43 



Marine Corps University 

later with lO.Pz.D. to effect the immediate encirclement of 55 Sovi- 
et divisions and a following battle that would yield 660,000 prison- 
ers and 1,242 tanks in pockets at Vyasma and further south at 
Bryansk. The prisoners yielded largely from the pockets noted 
above totalled more than 14 times the number of Rumanian and 
German prisoners taken from the Stalingrad pocket in January 
and February 1943. 

To add insult to injury, 7.Pz.D. would go on in the later Ger- 
man offensive of 16 November 41, to move another 110 km for- 
ward into the Soviet Union from its position on that date and seize 
a bridgehead across the Moscow-Volga Canal at Yachroma on 27 No- 
vember. 7.Pz.D. would take few prisoners on this last drive and 
would not cut the great road between Moscow and the vast city of 
Gorki lying to the east. To the bitter end of the German strategic 
offensive of 1941, however, 7.Pz.D. continued to lead the northern 
wing of the enveloping German forces. Generalmajor Funck led the 
division to unmatched success in World War II. Somewhere in the 
experience of the division during that period, there are lessons in 
operational style, tactical technique, and even weaponry that could 
be applied to western ground force operations today. 

**** 

In Operation Barbarossa, which turned out to be the opening 
phase of the Russian Campaign, Funck and 7.Pz.D. began the 
fighting under General der Panzertruppen Schmidt in XXXIXPz.K. 41 
In turn, the Pz.K. lay under Hermann Hoth, now a Generaloberst 
(Colonel General), and commander of Pz.Gr.3 (Panzergruppe 3, 
or Panzer Group 3). Hoth had put on a formidable performance 
with XV.A.K.(mot.) in France in sometimes pressing a commander 
even as aggressive as Rommel. The High Command of the Army 
recognized Horn's talents as a leader of higher level mobile forma- 
tions; he was considered comparable in many ways to the great 
Heinz Guderian. The OKH selected Hoth & Guderian to lead the 
Panzer Groups of Army Group Center, the two most important 



41 

By this time in the war the Germans had changed the names of corps headquarters con- 
trolling mobile divisions from A.K. (mot.) to Pz.K. {Panzer Korps). 



44 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

Panzer force commands in the German Army in 1941 (including 
even the soon to be famous Afrika Korps formed that same year). 
Hoth would display enormous self confidence and aggressiveness 
in the planning for Barbarossa. He suggested, for example, to his 
commander, Generalfeldmarschal (General Field Marshal) Fedor 
von Bock, Commander, Army Group Center, that the first encir- 
clement of Soviet forces in the campaign be made just east of 
Smolensk approximately 640 km straight line distance into the So- 
viet Union for Pz.Gr.3 and almost 700 km for Guderian's Pz.Gr.2. 
Funck and 7.Pz.D. would be moving under tough and aggressive 
commanders in the advance into the Soviet Union. 

**** 

7.Pz.D. began the Russian Campaign with an organization 
similar to that in France. Pz.R.25 under Oberst Rothenburg was the 
key maneuver element and continued to be organized into three 
Panzer battaltions. Although the Army had formed 10 additional 
Panzer divisions for the Russian campaign by the ruthless expe- 
dient of splitting in half each of the 10 existing divisions at the end 
of the French Campaign, 7.Pz.D. had a substantial total of 284 
light and medium tanks compared with the much smaller number 
of 170 in France. It remains a bit of a mystery why 7.Pz.D. should 
have had so many tanks when in principle, it should have had 
roughly half as many based on the way in which the 10 new divi- 
sions had been formed by taking tanks from the older divisions. 
German tank production remained very thin at this time, many 
tanks had been lost and worn out in Poland and France and the 
Balkans, and the feeble Panzer I had been almost completely 
phased out of use. The "trick" perhaps is that 7.Pz.D. would fight 
the great battles of 1941 with a high percentage (initial outfitting of 
167) of the mechanically robust but battle marginal Czech-manu- 
facture 38 (t) tanks weighing only about 11 tons and armed with a 
high quality but necessarily light 37mm cannon. The division, in 
effect, would go to war in Russia with a lot of high quality, me- 
dium-light battle tanks compensating perhaps for the lack of a 
stronger battle tank in the 20-ton class like the Panzer III 

The remainder of 7.Pz.D. would be concentrated in terms of 
combat power in S.R.6 and S.R.7 with the former equipped partial- 



Perspectives On Warfighting 4 $ 



Marine Corps University 



ly with Schutzen Panzer Wagen (SPW or Armored Personnel Carri- 
ers). The division received the first of those vehicles on 1 March 41 
and agonized over the tactical employment of troops in them. The 
Germans faced the question of whether to develop tactics of fight- 
ing from the vehicles or deploying out of them and fighting with 
more conventional infantry tactics. The division used K.7 and 
Pz.AA.37 as the remaining maneuver elements. The artillery regi- 
ment of the division, A.R.78, as a result of the experiences of the 
French Campaign, was reorganized, having one of its three light 
(105mm) howitzer battalions replaced by a heavy (150mm) howitz- 
er battalion for the same overall total of three artillery battalions. 

The division would continue to have organic 88mm and 
20mm FLAK in FLA.86 (Army Antiaircraft Gun Detachment 86) 
and self propelled 105mm heavy infantry guns (special artillery 
howitzers manned by infantry crews). The division anticipated 
problems with supply over the primitive, unpaved Russian road 
system, and the lb (Quartermaster or Logistics Officer) of the divi- 
sion had paid special attention to the organization of the heavy 
combat trains (truck columns) carrying fuel. The division contin- 
ued to have an Army aviation detachment with light fixed-wing 
aircraft dedicated primarily to reconnaissance (as opposed, for ex- 
ample, to spotting of artillery fire). 

As an elite, offensively oriented division with deep, strategic 
objectives in war, 7.Pz.D. lay approximately 1,200 km from its at- 
tack positions for the advance into the Soviet Union for reasons of 
deception and security until shortly before the outbreak of war. 
The division began to load troops for the move east from the area 
around Bonn only at 1000 on 8 June 41. The complexity and chal- 
lenge of this move was similar in magnitude to the amphibious op- 
erations planned and executed by the Allies in Europe and the Pa- 
cific. The operations staff had to break up the division into 64 train 
loads complicated by differing types of rolling stock (train car- 
riages) necessary for personnel, motor vehicles, tanks, heavy weap- 
ons, bridge columns, etc. The staff also had to arrange train loads 
of newly allotted, trucks from Ulm, Leipzig, and Paris, France. 
The trains had to be scheduled to conform to the normal pattern of 
rail traffic as much as possible and the tanks (all 284 of them) con- 



46 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



cealed during the movement and especially after arrival in East 
Russia southeast of Lotzen (Gizyko, Poland) during unloading. 
Not unlike an amphibious operation, the troop units had to arrive 
at the right times and adjacent to assembly areas as correct for the 
move to the border (movement ashore) into tactical positions in 
which combat would take place. The operations staff of the divi- 
sion, headed by Major i.G. Heidkamper was only a small fraction 
of the size and rank, for example, of a present-day Marine Corps 
division, whose large staff is partly justified by the "unique" 
complexities of the amphibious operation. Barbarossa was not a 
one-time event as a great strategic offensive. German operational 
staffs faced and solved the problems of similar great movements of 
forces in Poland, Norway, France, and the Balkans. 

By 21 June 41, 7.Pz.D. moved into its tactical assembly areas 
and assault positons. The division would be supported in the ini- 
tial assault by a complex array of army artillery detachments, 
corps artillery, Luftwaffe Flak, and an attached infantry regiment 
that would advance initially across one half of the front of the divi- 
sion for various tactical reasons. Unlike the brief attachment of the 
horse-drawn infantry regiment, the division would move into the 
Soviet Union with attached corps troops that would remain with 
the division for long periods of time in 1941. The small operations 
staff of 7.Pz.D., for example would request, receive, and operation- 
ally control a 100m gun battery, two 150mm guns, one 210mm 
mortar {Morser, or large caliber very short barreled artillery piece), 
smoke regiment (with 100mm conventional mortars), self-pro- 
pelled antitank company (47mm AT guns on Panzer I chassis) and 
strong pioneer detachments. 

OKH placed the major point of effort in the Russian Cam- 
paign with Army Group Center and the concept of a strong attack 
directly toward Moscow. 42 The Chief of Staff of the German army 
reasoned that such an attack would keep the German effort fo- 
cused on a clear physical objective. He also reasoned that the gov- 
ernment of the Soviet Union would be forced to commit the main 

OKH or Oberkommando des Heeres (High Command of the Army). 



Perspectives On Warfighting *7 



Marine Corps University 

concentration of the Soviet army in the defense of the political, 
communications, and mobilization center of the state with the ac- 
companying necessary possibility of its destruction. Hitler marched 
to a different strategic drumbeat that remains ill-understood to the 
present day. Hitler's diffusion of the German strategic effort to- 
ward Leningrad, the Eastern Ukraine, and the Crimea support a 
view that he was more interested in making certain of the seizure 
of those objectives than the defeat of the armies defending them. 
Hitler seems to have had a siege mentality in which he was more 
interested in establishing effective siege lines for Germany than 
decisively finishing off the Soviet Union in the war begun by him. 

Without Rommel now, but with Rothenburg (Pz.R.25) and 
Unger (S.R.6) remaining from the French Campaign, the division 
would have a daring style that would be difficult for the Soviets to 
manage. Independently of Rommel, the German general staff sys- 
tem had provided the division with a streamlined system of com- 
mand: except for suggestion and opinion of any senior command- 
er in 7.Pz.D., the division commander made his decisions in brief 
discussions with only one man in the division — the la, or opera- 
tions officer. The 7.Pz.D. had no assistant division commander 
and no chief of staff. The division commander commanded, the la 
attended to the details of staff work, the artillery commander (Arko) 
coordinated fire support. The division that moved out of the edge 
of darkness into the Soviet Union at 0305 on 22 June 41 was com- 
mitted to action not to management and discussion. 

Just as in France, 7.Pz.D. advanced to cross a major river ob- 
stacle, namely, the Nieman River, broad but slow flowing, and 63- 
68 km distant where two big bridges crossed it in and near Olita 
(Alytus). Although SR.6 and S.R.7 would make the first assault into 
the Soviet Union along with l.r.90 (Infantry Regiment 90) on their 
right, 43 Pz.R.25 would quickly pass through the motorized rifle 

43 

See these arrangements in, l.Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, Teil I, 1 Juni-27 

September 1941, Anlage zu 7Pz.Div. la Nr. 460/41 g. Kdos. vom 13.6.41, U.S. Archives, German 
Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 406, Fr. 000469. The sketch shows the assembly areas and at- 
tack positions for the advance across the Soviet border. The German troops began to move 
into this position on 20 June 41 (See also Map 4 in appendix). 



48 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

regiments and with K.7 and Pz.A.A.37 seize the bridge over the 
Nieman at Olita another 4.5 km farther east at approximately 1245. 
The latter bridge was not captured as an afterthought. The division 
used thrust lines as a quick, flexible, and secure technique to locate 
units and assign missions based on the success of the system in 
France. The division commander assigned the second thrust line 
in the war to run from the rail and road intersection 10.5 km east of 
Kalvarija through one intermediate point and end on the bridge 4.5 
km east of Olita. 44 

On the first day of the war, the German style in a fluid offen- 
sive situation is illustrated by the initiative demanded of the lead- 
ers of K.7 and Pz.A.A.37. The division commander, in his written 
order for the attack, assigned K.7 the mission- oriented task "with 
Pz.Jg.42 to remain at the disposal of the division while recon- 
noitering as close as possible behind S.Brig.7 or else Pz.R.25 
through the towns of Trump alie and Mergutrakiai." 45 The divi- 
sion commander has told the officer commanding K7 to keep up 
with the big maneuver force that had the most success in moving 
along the main axis of advance and be ready to do what the divi- 
sion commander decided depending on actual developments in 
the war. In the same written order, Funck gave Pz.A.A.37 the task 
"to hold itself ready after the breakthrough of the narrow 
trafficable area at Mikaliskiai to move to the front for reconnais- 
sance up to the Nieman River." 46 Funck (and the la) wasted few 
words in assigning tasks, showed confidence in the initiative of the 
subordinate commanders, and obviously accepted the reality that 
no plan survives first contact with the enemy. 

After the seizure of the two bridges over the Nieman, Pz.R.25 
(minus lid Battalion) and K.7 with various supporting forces es- 
pecially artillery, Flak, and pioneers, had built up the northern 

44 

See in, 7.Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, Teil I, 1 Juni-27 September 1941, Anlage 

19, Stosslinien, 19.6.41, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 406, Fr. 

000503. 

45 Ibid., Anlage 20, Division befehl fur den Angriffe am B-Tag, 20.6.41, Fr. 000508. 

^Ibid., Fr. 000509. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 49 



Marine Corps University 

bridgehead opposite Olita until struck by a Soviet tank attack. The 
Germans were not surprised; intelligence at various levels had 
agreed before the war on the presence of the Soviet 5th Tank Divi- 
sion in the general area of the attack. The Germans were mildly 
jarred by the scale and intensity of the attacks that continued 
through approximately 1900 and seem to have been made by a 
force of about 200 tanks. Pz.R.25 fought a battle in the afternoon 
that Oberst Rothenburg remarked was particularly tough. Rothen- 
burg's tanks "shot up" or captured intact 70 Soviet "medium and 
heavy" tanks (See Map 5 for the location of Olita). 

By approximately 1930, Pz.R.25 could begin preparations to 
continue the advance, having decisively thrown back the Soviet 
tanks. By 2130, Funck had pressed much of the division into the 
two bridgeheads now roughly 70 km from the border, and even 
Pz.R.21 from the adjacent (to the north) 20.Pz.D. had slipped into 
the northern bridgehead. The division, in fact, was ready to 
move— Pz.R.25 out of the northern lodgement slightly in advance 
of the rest of the division in the southern bridgehead and with 
20.Pz.D. screening to the north. Neither Schmidt as corps com- 
mander nor Funck on his own initiative got the advance going 
again until 0900 the next morning (23 June 41). Significant oppor- 
tunity eluded the Germans here, for example, the possibility of 
getting to Vilna with greater disruption of Soviet command and 
control and overrunning and scattering of reserves. The question 
arises: why did Funck not move the division? 

The answer is both interesting and instructive. The la made 
the cryptic comment at the end of the entries in his log for 22 June 
40 that further attack with Pz.R.25 was only possible with the ac- 
complishment of refueling and resupply of ammunition. 47 The lb 
of the division goes into more detail on the course of events in his 
diary. He makes it clear that in spite of the months of preparation 
for Barbarossa in 9th Army (9.A.O.K.), Pz.Gr.3, XXXIX.Pz.K. and 
for a shorter period of time in 7.Pz.D., the gigantic surge of the 

47 

See in 7.Pz.D., la, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3 (Fuhrungsabteil-ung), Einsatz Sowjetrussland, 22.6.41, 

U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 406, Fr. 000014. 



50 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 




20 40 60 80 100 120 



Map 5. Advance of ZPz.D. 22 June - 11 July 1941 
The episode of the encirclement west of 
Minsk and drive to Vitebsk. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



51 



Marine Corps University 

German army and Luftwaffe ground units across the border 
overloaded the road system and blocked the movement forward of 
the fuel and ammunition columns of the division supply service. 
As early as 0530 on 22 June 41, the la ordered two heavy columns 
of fuel and one light column of ammunition forward for Pz.R.25. 
Both the la and lb personally intervened to get the fuel and ammu- 
nition forward. They were both successful and they were only able 
to get the supplies to the Panzer regiment and rest of the division 
around Olita approximately 24 hours late in the early morning of 
23 June 41. In essence, Pz.R.25 and the other combat elements of 
7.Pz.D. moved forward with no traffic problems except perhaps for 
approximately 200 tanks of the Soviet 5th Tank Division while the 
columns of the division trains inched forward in German traffic. 
7.Pz.D. learned from this experience and, in a potential lesson for 
operations today, included fuel and ammunition columns in and 
among the forward combat elements in future prepared offensives in 
which large numbers of troops were concentrated in advance for a 
major attack. 

At 0900 23 June 41, the mass of the division advanced east- 
ward then northeastward to skirt the southern edge of the great city 
of Vilna and the heights east of it, the latter approximately 40 km 
distant. Both Schmidt and Funck agreed that 7.Pz.D. as a mobile 
formation should not get involved in a fight for a big city like Vilna 
but move close enough to secure the road net around it for a con- 
tinuation of the advance toward Minsk. They also felt that the Ger- 
mans on the outskirts so quickly in the war might cause the Soviets 
to evacuate the town without turning it into a fortress. Funck sent 
out Pz.AA.37 as the advanced detachment of the division and 
placed Pz.R.25 as the leading element of the mass of the division 
following behind the armored cars and motorcycles of the recon- 
naissance battalion. After "hard fighting" in several places along 
the way and one significant river crossing, Pz.R.25 reached "the 
heights" east of Vilna at 1900 23 June 41. Funck, who had stationed 
himself forward with Pz.R.25, ordered the rest of the division to 
close up just south of Vilna and behind the tanks of the Panzer 
regiment. The rest of the division moved into that area from 2300- 
0200 while under attack by Soviet tanks units which attacked the 
German march columns destroying "individual vehicles." The po- 



52 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



tential danger of the German position is illustrated by the fact that 
in the next two days units of 20. and 7.Pz.D. would put out of ac- 
tion 80 Soviet tanks in the area 7.Pz.D. had marched through the 
previous evening. 

The division spent 24 June 41 tidying up around Vilna and 
preparing for another leap forward on the following day. K.7, 
which seized 25 intact aircraft on Vilna-South Airport at 0615, ad- 
vanced into Vilna against a quickly disappearing enemy and had 
taken the city by 0840. Funck then ordered a strong reconnais- 
sance force directly east while beginning to concentrate the mass 
of the division— Pz.R.25, S.R.6, S.R.7 and A.R.78— southeast of 
Vilna for the anticipated order by corps headquarters to advance 
through the big rail center at Molodecno north of Minsk. Funck 
sent the warning order to S.R.6 and S.R.7 at 1700 to concentrate 
southeast of Vilna but faced the dilemma that at that time the so- 
called large fuel columns of the division that carried fuel for the 
motorized infantry had been held up and only Pz.R.25 had 
enough fuel to continue the advance. Funck confronted the ques- 
tion of whether to continue the advance with Pz.R.25 alone or keep 
the division concentrated but not moving while waiting for the 
fuel. In the actual event, corps headquarters did not send down the 
order to continue the advance until after midnight 24 June 41, and 
Funck was able to refuel the motorized infantry regiments for an 
advance on the morning of 25 June 41. Funck also on 24 June 41 
ordered I./Pz.R.25 and Pz.A.A.37 directly east 60 km from Vilna to 
seize a bridgehead over the Vilija River either as part of the main 
route of advance of 7.Pz.D. or to turn over to the somewhat slower 
moving 20.Pz.D. immediately adjacent to the left. 

Funck reinforced S.R.6 and set it out at 0900 25 June 40 as a 
powerful advanced detachment toward Molodecno, which was a 
substantial 100 km east. In a noteworthy performance, the spear- 
head of S.R.6 reached Molodecno at 1715 and went on into the eve- 
ning to "seize and hold" the heights beyond Radoskovici a total of 
145 km from the starting point of S.R.6 earlier on the same day. 
Operating as lead element of the mass of the division, Pz.R.25 
moved closely behind S.R.6 during the entire day putting out of ac- 
tion numerous Soviet tanks and armored reconnaissance vehicles 



Perspectives On Warfighting -*J 



Marine Corps University 

along the road. By 1915, Pz.R.25 lay 10 km southeast of Molodecno 
and continued forward to move through the position of S.R.6 be- 
yond to the vicinity of Maki near the Minsk-Moscow "autobahn", 
an advance of approximately 170 km straight line distance for the 
day. The figure is a dramatic one showing 7.Pz.D. having exploded 
forward before the end of the fourth day of fighting in the east to a 
position between Minsk and Moscow (See Map 5). 

Funck stationed himself and the division operations staff with 
Pz.R.25 during this dramatic advance and set up the division com- 
mand post during the evening of 25 June 41 4 km southeast of 
Radoskovici only 29 km from the capital of White Russia. Funck 
also moved forward K.7 and Pz.A.A.37 the latter all the way from 
its mission in the sector of 20.Pz.D. By midnight on 25 June 41, 
Funck had concentrated the mass of 7.Pz.D. north and east of 
Minsk. Funck lay with a powerful force in terms of its demon- 
strated combat power now far to the rear of three Soviet armies 
fighting in the area between Bialystok and Novogrodek with ap- 
proximately 500,000 men. The next day, Funck would edge his di- 
vision farther to the southeast and cut the autobahn and main rail 
connection between that Soviet force and Moscow. Almost incredi- 
bly, 7.Pz.D. lay approximately 150 km east of the center of mass of 
the Soviet armies defending White Russia. 

The following day, 26 June 41, after an unexplained pause in 
operations for the entire morning, Funck issued orders for the con- 
tinuation of the advance and moved the division forward starting 
at 1600. Pz.R.25 led the advance and cut the main rail line and 
road between Minsk and Moscow near Sloboda 25 km east of 
Minsk at approximately 2200. Pz.R.25 and the accompanying 
S.R.6 continued to fight against sporadic Soviet resistance. The 
Germans encountered a newly constructed "autobahn" not shown 
on their maps and lying just to the north of the older one between 
Minsk and Moscow. The discovery of this great road caused some 
confusion, but Pz.R.25 signalled to division still during darkness: 
"victory along the entire line." Unfortunately for the Germans, 
Oberst Rothenburg was badly wounded and would be killed in ac- 
tion the following day while being evacuated in an ambulance 
along dangerous roads back toward Vilna— shot dead by Russian 



54 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

infantry along the route. Unfortunately for the Russians, Pz.R.25 
would surprise and destroy two "disoriented" trains on the rail line 
to Moscow during the evening and put out of action 20 Russian 
tanks in later action. By midnight of 26 June 41, Funck had placed 
7.Pz.D. astride the main communications line between Minsk and 
Moscow and by the next morning would have the division in dif- 
ferent positions along that line between Sloboda and Smolensk (15 
km farther east) and then curving north to block Soviet attacks 
from the direction of Moscow. Funck, in effect, set up on 26-27 
June 51, a large German defensive perimeter northeast of Minsk 
that blocked Soviet escape from the west and reinforcement from 
the east. 

How is it possible that such a situation had come to pass? 
More specifically, how were the Germans able to advance 170 km 
with the division mass comprising Pz.R.25, S.R.6, K.7, Pz.A.A.37 
and most of A.R.78 into an area so important to the Soviets in the 
brief period from 0900 through approximately midnight 25 June 
41? Also specifically, how were the Germans able to resupply 
themselves in so extreme a position? The answer is that 7.Pz.D. ad- 
vanced and resupplied itself by using the felxibility, initiative, and 
rapid tempo that characterized their performance. Funck, for ex- 
ample, knew by the evening of 24 June 41 that Pz.Gr.3 was about to 
turn approximately 90 degrees to the southeast and effect the encir- 
clement of the Soviets in White Russia. Funck was simultaneously 
ready for but uneasy about this move. The division had been at 
Vilna one day too long and he was ready to go. S.R.7— one half of 
his motorized infantry— however, was tied up in securing the area 
south of Vilna and Pz.A.A.37 on his own orders had been sent 60 
km east in prudent but misplaced anticipation of operations in 
that direction. Funck was also uneasy about the supply situation 
which remained dislocated by the traffic overload of the initial 
surge over the border. When it became apparent at midnight on 24 
June 41 that his division was to advance in the morning as the ex- 
treme forward and outside wing of the encirclement of the Soviets 
from the north, Funck knew that accelerating the tempo of the at- 
tack was more important than waiting for the whole division to be 
concentrated or allowing a marginal supply situation to dictate a 
halt. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 55 



Marine Corps University 

S.R.6 led the advance moving boldly in the style of the attack 
in France: in meeting engagements "all barrels" would be fired in 
the direction of the enemy to bowl him over and continue the ad- 
vance; one-word oral orders characterized brief deployments from 
movement in column to roust out small but tough and well placed 
enemy units that could not be bypassed or reduced to immediate 
flight; the long-barreled 100mm guns of A.R.78 (attached from 
corps) were placed well forward where they could fire at distant 
ranges in front of S.R.6 to stimulate panic, confusion, and flight 
among Russians caught completely off guard because of their as- 
sumed safe distance from the front. The division commander 
placed Pz.R.25 behind S.R.6 because of the observed Russian prac- 
tice of attacking with tanks against the rear elements of advancing 
German columns. Placed far enough back to be out of sight of the 
attacking Soviets, Pz.R.25 several times came to the assistance of 
the last battalion in the advancing column of S.R.6 to advance with 
particular boldness because the motorized infantry had no fear of 
being "cut off by the Soviet tanks with Pz.R.25 following. 

The more detailed accounts of the advance of S.R.6 give addi- 
tional insights into the German offensive style. 48 The operations 
detachment of the regiment recorded the events of the advance in a 
barely preserved account that shows S.R.6 being ordered to put to- 
gether an advanced detachment at 0700 and begin the attack 
southeast into White Russia by 0900. Because of supply difficulties, 
however, the following remarkable situation developed that shows 
the Germans at a peak of self confidence and urgency in the ad- 
vance. Quite amazingly, the mass of S.R.6 that was to follow had 
only enough fuel to march at most approximately 40 km, i.e., no- 
where near the distance to its assigned operational objective, just 
north of Minsk. It is difficult to imagine what the Germans realisti- 
cally had in mind here but it is clear that they trusted in some spe- 
cial war fighting star and the opportunity associated with action in 
war. Funck essentially was more willing to advance 40 km until the 
S.R.6 fuel supplies ran out and trust to some opportunity to keep 

48 

7Pz.D, la, Tagesmeldungen. 20. Juni-10, 1941, Schutzen-Regiment 6, Abt. la, 27.6.41, 

Morgenmeldung fur die Zeit vom 25.6.41, 09.00 Uhr bis 27.6.41, 01.00 Uhr, U.S. Archives, Ger- 
man Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 407, Fr. 000889-000893. 



56 Perspectives On Warfighting 



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things going than to sit in position and wait tamely for resupply. At 
this point the story becomes even more unlikely, because, "at the 
last minute a [Soviet] fuel dump was discovered" 49 and the mass 
of S.R.6 quickly fueled and sent off after its advanced detachment. 

Funck provided a lesson for energetic leaders of mobile divi- 
sions by placing himself at the head of Pz.R.25 and just behind the 
mass of S.R.6 where he could exert his will. When the advanced de- 
tachment of S.R.6 reached Smorgone approximately 65 km from 
its assembly area near Vilna, the point company headed directly 
south along a route of advance that would have led it into Minsk 
directly from the west — a terrible error. At the right location, up 
front with the division in war, "directly as the battalion with the 
point company turned off toward Losk" 50 to the south, the divi- 
sion commander "personally" moved forward and gave the veter- 
an regimental commander the order to move in the correct, deci- 
sive direction toward Molodecno to the southeast. 

The German success of this day, however, is not explained ad- 
equately in any of the observations above. A key, possibly the key, 
to this front shattering advance comes in the following dis- 
armingly succinct and matter of fact comment on the advance: Es- 
pecially in built-up areas, through attack by fire, the enemy sought 
to break up the advance of the columns a result, however, which he 
did not achieve. 51 



This statement presents an operational picture of S.R.6 ad- 
vancing with little conventional regard for heavy fire directed 
against its columns on the road. The subtlety in the situation was 
that the Germans had as high a regard as any troops for fire di- 
rected against them but refused in every case, except for a tank at- 
tack before Smorgone that physically overran part of 7./II./S.R.6 



49 Ibid., Fr. 000889. 
50 Ibid., Fr. 000889. 



51 Ibid., Fr. 000890. 



Perspectives On Warfighting $7 



Marine Corps University 



and the regimental motorcycle platoon, to deploy and attack the 
Soviets. Toward, the end of the day, 3 km west of Radoskovici 
(about 127 km along the route of advance since morning), the ad- 
vanced elements of S.R.6 overran a strong Soviet column moving 
on the same road in the opposite direction. "Through immediate 
setting to work," the German units destroyed Soviet trucks and 
tanks on the road and captured a significant number of 152mm 
long barreled guns of an artillery unit. The energy and style of the 
7.Pz.D. is illustrated by the motorized riflemen in this engagement 
neither collecting nor securing these valuable weapons but simply 
disabling them where they were scattered along the road. 

Funck had confronted severe fuel and ammunition problems 
on 22 and 23 June 41 but on 25 June discovered an enormous Sovi- 
et fuel depot intact in Vilna. The division Supply Service had be- 
gun to function more effectively as traffic thinned out on the roads, 
but the Soviet fuel depot would shorten the haul distances for the 
German truck columns carrying fuel during the next few days. The 
Germans would still have to haul ammunition from farther back 
at Varena 67 km southwest of Vilna but would survive that situa- 
tion as the dumps moved forward. The divisions confronted a sup- 
ply crisis again, however, on the evening of 25 June 41 because of 
the 170 km leap forward. Large numbers of partly dispersed but 
dangerous Soviet infantry and even manned armored vehicles still 
lay along the route of advance. The situation was disastrous along 
the approximately 70 km of road from Molodecno eastward to the 
area behind the mass of the division fighting by midnight 26 June 
41 in the area around Smolevichi. 

On 27 June 41, a supply crisis fell on the division. Although 
the Germans were moving fuel and ammunition forward into 
army-level dumps at reasonable distances behind the fighting 
fronts and had captured large Soviet fuel supplies in Vilna and 
Molodecno, 7.Pz.D. was uanble to move the supply columns of the 
division supply service along the road from Molodecno through 
Gorodok to the defenses centered around Smolevici. During the 
morning, lb (the division Quartermaster) pleaded with the la to set 
up an "escort system" for the truck supply columns. la maintained 
that no troops could be spared from the perimeter to establish such 



58 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

a system, and lb at 1400 informed the division command post that 
fuel and ammunition would be delayed at least until the next 
morning because of the projected destruction of the columns, bad 
road conditions worsened by rain during the day, etc. The la was 
adamant, however, and around 1700 ordered lb to move the col- 
umns beginning not later than 2200 that evening— Soviet infantry, 
tanks, rain, and sandy rutted roads notwithstanding. lb personally 
stationed himself along the road after 1700; he observed parts of 
Nebelregiment 51 (Nebel.51, or 51st Smoke Regiment armed with 
100mm mortars) moving forward, and using impeccable initiative, 
he searched out the regimental commander and convinced him to 
provide security for the supply columns. 52 The result: the columns 
reached Macki close enough to the fighting for the combat troops 
to pick up the fuel and ammunition, thus allowing division to nar- 
rowly overcome another supply crisis caused by its speed in the of- 
fense. 

On 28 June 41, the division faced another supply crisis as the 
lb could not move the supply columns along the road from 
Gorodok through Macki closer to the front at Smolevici. The lb 
lost the support of Nebel.51 as it went into combat and was not 
able to get support opportunistically from 20.Pz.D. which had 
moved up alongside of 7.Pz.D. and had begun to share the road 
with his division. On the morning of 29 June 41, the lb received 
word from Leutnant Freese in Pz.R.25 that Oberst Rothenburg had 
been killed while being evacuated along the dangerous stretch of 
supply road. At that moment, the lb, Major i.G. Liese simply or- 
dered Freese to assemble an escort force and bring forward supply 
columns from Gorodok. By 1400, the columns were moving along 
the roads effectively without loss. At 1400, the la under the impact 
of the death of Rothenburg, ordered the forming of a strong escort 
force to keep the road open; Pz.R.25 sent 10 tanks in a small task 
force under Oberleutnant Albrecht to escort supplies as required 
and the crisis finally passed — helped also by the arrival of power- 
ful additional German forces closing in to complete the destruc- 
tion of the Soviet forces in the great pockets west of Minsk. 

See this in, 7.Pz.D.,Ib, kriegstagebuch der Quartiermeister-Abteilung, 27. Juni 1941, U.S., Ar- 
chives, German REcords, Divisions, T-315, Roll 423, Fr. 000024. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 59 



Marine Corps University 

The following situation characterizes the necessarily chaotic 
combat and supply situation in and amongst 7.Pz.D. as it arrived 
deep in the rear of strategic-level Soviet forces. On 27 June 41, 
Leichte Flak-Abteilung 84 l.Flak 84, or 84th Light Antiaircraft Gun 
Detachment) lay along the route of advance of 7.Pz.D. and atta- 
ched to it for antiaircraft defense of the road. At 1100, l.Flak 84 en- 
gaged eight Soviet SB-2, two-engined medium bombers attacking 
German units moving on the road near Gorodek. The Flak de- 
tachment, armed with 20mm automatic cannons observed the 
crashes of two Soviet aircraft hit at low altitude by high explosive 
(HE) projectiles. Three hours later, l.Flak 84 came under attack by 
10 more Soviet bombers while defending the 7.Pz.D. road and this 
time drove them off by putting up heavy fire from all guns that pre- 
vented the attacking aircraft from making bombing runs. Then, at 
1600 the Flak detachment received word that fuel and ammunition 
columns of the division along the main road forward from 
Gorodek, i.e., in among the division and its defensive "perimeter," 
were under attack by Soviet troops with machine guns and anti- 
tank cannons. The Flak detachment moved 2./l.Flak 84 with six 
20mm cannons to engage the enemy in the "middle" of the divi- 
sion defensive area and save the supply columns. The detachment 
attacked vigorously with its automatic cannons suppressing the 
fire, driving off the enemy and even putting out of action several 
lightly armored Soviet tanks with armor piercing ammunition. 
This action illustrates the uncertainty and chaos of the operational 
situation and the real dangers posed to the division supply col- 
umns. 

In the period 25-27 June 41, 7.Pz.D. placed its units astride the 
main Soviet line of communications to the armies fighting in 
White Russia and successfully defended itself against all efforts of 
the Soviets to escape to the east or break in from the west. On the 
latter day, 17.Pz.D. arrived from the south and completed the cut- 
ting of all ground communications to the vast Soviet forces west of 
Minsk from the rest of the Soviet Union. The powerful German 4th 
and 9th Infantry Armies (9. Armee and 4. Armee) surged forward 
and by 27 June had encircled approximately 17 Soviet divisions in 
a pocket whose eastern edge lay 200 km west of Minsk. On that day, 
the pocket would be 30 km wide and 130 km long and the Ger- 



60 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

mans would soon take approximately 170,000 prisoners out of it. 
The Soviets would get large numbers of troops away from this area 
but the bulk of them would be caught in the great outer arms of the 
encirclement set by 7. and 17.Pz.Divs. east of Minsk, and soon 
manned by the hard marching German infantry divisions and a 
small number of mobile divisions. By 5 July 41, the remnants of an 
additional 10-12 Soviet divisions would lie close to surrender in a 
great pocket 50 km wide and 70 km long that would give up ap- 
proximately 150,000 prisoners in the area west and southwest of 
Minsk. 

Days earlier, however, on 29 June 41, XXXDCPz.K. would 
alert 7.Pz.D. for a concentration of its units farther east for a con- 
tinuation of the offensive toward Moscow. At 0935, Headquarters, 
XXXDCPz.K somewhat ominously warned the division that "the 
mission for the movement forward to Borisov remained standing, 
the time still to be ordered." 53 The next day, 30 June 41, Pz.R.25 re- 
ported to division that it had the considerable number of 149 
tanks, mostly robust but lightly armed Panzer 38(t) tanks, ready for 
another major offensive. Later in the day, Funck ordered the com- 
mander of K.7 reinforced by tanks artillery, pioneers, and antitank 
guns to move out to the north and east of the existing location of 
the divisions still near Smolevici east of Minsk. The Germans had 
a special genius for putting together specially tailored Kampfgruppen 
(battle groups) that was an important part of their style in war. 
During the strategic offensives of 1939-1941, the Germans con- 
structed their mobile advances out of the fire and maneuvers of 
continually changing battle groups. The German way in war could 
be likened to the continuous formation of combat groups each 
with its own mission oriented task, resultant combat, and reforma- 
tion into yet another combat group for the next task. Here perhaps 
we have a valuable clue for how to practice war during peacetime: 
instead of practicing set piece advances, we might be better served 
to task our officers to put together "ad hoc" battle groups to master 
the sudden danger of enemy counterattack and to take advantage 
of the fleeting opportunity characteristic of so many situations on 
the offensive. 

53 

7.Pz.D., la, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 29.6.41, U.S. Archives, German Records, Divisions T-315, 

Roll 406, Fr. 000024. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 61 



Marine Corps University 

At 1200 on 1 July 41, Headquarters, XXXIX.Pz.K. gave the di- 
vision the new mission to put together an advanced detachment 
(Vorausabteilung) consisting specifically of one motorized infantry 
battalion, one Panzer detachment, one pioneer battalion, and one 
artillery battalion. Corps headquarters directed the division to have 
this advanced detachment ready to move toward Lepel 100 km 
north northeast of Smolevici but with the specific route of advance 
left open for the flexibility of corps in making the final decision. 
The division, in effect, had been told to be ready to move off imme- 
diately but not told which of several possible routes of advance it 
would be required to take. Funck knew that big things were pend- 
ing when the Commanding General of VIII. Air Corps, the Baron 
von Richthofen, arrived at 1400 at the division command post to 
coordinate liaison and support for the new offensive. At 1500, 
Generaloberst Hoth, Commander, Pz.Gr.3 (i.e., the next echelon of 
command above corps) visited 7.Pz.D. and oriented Funck on the 
general picture for the entire offensive. Hoth gave Funck the mis- 
sion oriented order to get to Lepel by a successful surprise attack 
across the Beresim River directly from the west but, if such a coup 
de main were not possible, to shift the advance farther south to 
another crossing site. 

On 2 July 41, the mass of the division moved north from the 
area around Smolevici and the next morning, 3 July, advanced di- 
rectly from the west toward Lepel across the bridge at Beresino on 
the Beresina River. At 1037, Pz.R.25 arrived at the bridge over the 
Ulla River at Lepel and by 1400 the la of the division had set up 
the division command post only 3 km to the west of the city. By late 
evening, 7.Pz.D. had placed the division in assembly areas along 
the Ulla River ready for the advance across the river at Lepel and 
the advance directly east towards Vitebsk 100 km farther east. 

The general strategic picture was a dramatic one at this time 
in the war. At the highest level, Adolf Hitler, who was vacillating 
wildly among different objectives for the German Army had made 
the right decision to continue the march toward Moscow rather 
than veer off to the north (Leningrad) or south (Don Basin). The 
army, accordingly, set the great strategic target of the smashing of 
the Soviet defenses being erected along the Divina and Dnepr Riv- 



62 Perspectives On Warfighting 



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ers and especially those on the land bridge between the rivers and 
west of Smolensk. Army Group Center assigned Pz.Gp.3 the task 
to swing to the north, break up the Soviet defense along the Dvina 
River, take Vitebsk, and drive into the heights of Jarcewo northeast 
of Smolensk to cut the "autobahn" and main rail line to that city 
from Moscow. Pz.Gr.3 assigned XXXDCPz.K. the mission to ad- 
vance through Lepel, seize Vitebsk and advance to Jarcewo. The 
corps commander gave Funck the mission to make the initial sei- 
zure of Lepel, to drive directly at Vitebsk south of the Dvina River, 
and then, staying well to the north of the Minsk-Smolensk-Mos- 
cow "autobahn," to cut the road in the vicinity of Jarcewo. If this 
could be done in a timely fashion, the Germans would succeed 
again in encircling about 500,000 Russians still lying west of them. 

On the early morning of 4 July 41, the divisions completed the 
crossing of the Ulla River at Lepel but stood frozen in its advance 
directly at Vitebsk. In spite of effective planning by the staff and 
impressive will on the part of the commanders, the division had 
lost most of its operational mobility due to fuel shortage. The la 
noted earlier, for example, at 2300 on 3 July 41 that the "action ra- 
dius" of the division had fallen to only 50 km for various individ- 
ual units. He noted again at 0400 on 4 July 41 that still no fuel had 
been received and that the mass of the division would be able to 
advance only after receipt of gasoline. With some coolness and 
flexibility, the division commander, nevertheless, put together yet 
another advanced detachment with fuel as available to advance 37 
km farther east to Chasniki. The supply service fuel columns con- 
tinued to be held up by damaged bridges and unpaved sandy 
roads with inadequate foundations, and fuel did not become avail- 
able until approximately 1800 in Lepel. 

Funck showed originality and decisiveness in putting together 
the advanced detachment because he assigned the commander of 
A.R.78, his artillery chief and fire support coordinator to lead the 
detachment. The following list of units comprising the advanced 
detachment illustrates the flexibility of the Germans in keeping 
things moving in the advance: 



Perspectives On Warfighting 63 



Marine Corps University 



7.Pz.D. Advanced Detachment (0300 4 July 41) 

Commander: Commanding Officer of Div Artillery Regiment 

Units: 1 Battalion S.R.6 
1 Platoon 2./PL58 
1 Platoon 2./Pz Jg.42 
1 Platoon 88 mm Flak 

1 Company, Pz.R.25 

2 Batteries I./A.R.78 
1 Battery Nbl.Rgt.51 



Funck gave Oberst Frolich (Commander, A.R.78) the mission 
to seize the bridge at Chasniki and, limited only by fuel, continue 
the advance towards Vitebsk. Funck specifically noted that the 
mission of holding open the crossing site was that of the following 
elements of the division; i.e., the advanced detachment was to con- 
tinue to advance whether or not the enemy pulled himself together 
to attack the crossing site. 

After the road, bridge, and fuel problems of the previous day, 
Funck got the division going again on the early morning of 5 July 
41. The division advanced along two axes with Pz.A.A.37 leading 
the advanced detachment through Chasniki and Bocejkova to- 
ward the narrows a Dubrova between the Dvina River and lakes to 
the south. K.7 (reinforced) advanced on a separate axis through 
Chasniki and Senno toward the same narrows at Dubrova. By the 
evening of 5 July at about midnight, the division stood with the 
mass of its units on the south bank of the Dvina River at Dubrova 
only 25 km from the outskirts of Vitebsk. Funck had led 7.Pz.D. 
well into the land bridge between the Dvina River to the north and 
the Dnepr to the south. The Soviets, although falling behind in the 
mobilization process, had managed to concentrate powerful forces 
almost exactly where 7.Pz.D. now lay. 

By 0300 6 July 41 the division units in the Dubrova area were 
under heavy attack from strong Soviet forces to the east and south- 
east. Pz.A.A.37 at the forefront of the developing battle informed 



64 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

division headquarters at 0830 that it was "questionable" that the 
advanced positions could be held. Funck ordered the reconnais- 
sance battalion to hold those positions and moved up III./Pz.R.25 
to its assistance and quickly built up yet another battle group des- 
ignated Kampfgruppe Thomale to take over defense of the Dubrova 
narrows. In the meantime the division battle group based on K.7 
farther south had reached Senno at 1030 and a great battle began 
to develop from that city to the Dvina River along a "front" of 
about 33 km. By 1230 all of the forward units of the division re- 
ported combat with the Soviets. Later in the afternoon after 1430, 
Funck organized two additional battle groups designated Kampf- 
gruppen von Boineburg and von linger alongside and to the rear re- 
spectively of Kampfgruppe Thomale near the Dubrova narrows. 
With reinforced K.7, also engaged at Senno, Funck conducted the 
escalating engagement with four battle groups. By 1440 6 July 41, 
all of the attached heavy artillery was firing in support of the divi- 
sion which found itself everywhere on the defensive. The artillery 
held by the division would prove particularly effective in disrupt- 
ing and scattering Soviet tank units assembling for attack — at 2000, 
for example, German artillery fire as observed through artillery 
observation aircraft would "shoot up in flames" seven Soviet tanks 
in one assembly area. ^ A Soviet prisoner, Captain Logwinoff, 
220th Motorized Rifle Division, engaged in the fighting at Vitebsk, 
would note specifically that the 10 tanks of the division still run- 
ning after a long march to Vitebsk would all be destroyed by Ger- 
man Pak and artillery fire. 55 

On 7 and 8 July 41, Funck engaged powerful enemy forces 
largely from the newly inserted Soviet 19th Army that included one 
mechanized and three tank divisions. Kampfgruppe von Boineburg 
and Kampfgruppe Thomale bore the brunt of the fighting against 
Soviet forces that included large numbers of tanks. The severity of 
the fighting is illustrated by the following data. On 7 July 41, the di- 
vision put out of action 103 Soviet tanks including six heavy vehi- 

54 
See, for example, 7.Pz.D., la, Kriegstagebuch Nr.3, 6.7.41, U.S., Archives, German Records, 

T-315, Roll 406, Fr. 000037. 

See, 7.Pz.D., Ic, Tatigkeitsbericht, Anlagen zum 1. Abschnitt, Vernehmung Hauptmann 
Logwinoff, c. 25.7.41, U.S. Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 426, Fr. 001056. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 65 



Marine Corps University 



cles (2 KV-2 and 4 T-34). The Germans with characteristic candor 
claimed the destruction of only 20 Soviet trucks and one antitank 
gun, while they noted that the numbers for tanks and trucks did not 
include vehicles put out of action through artillery fire into assem- 
bly areas — a major tactic of the Germans in the battle. German 
records show the following losses for the same day: 



Final Outcome, Tank Battle, 7 July 41 56 


Soviet Losses 

Tanks: 2 KV-2 52-ton 
4 T-34 26-ton 
98 mostly BT-5, 7 c. 11-14 t 


German Losses 57 

Tanks: 2 

s.I.G. (150mm): 1 

LI.G. ( 75 mm): 1 


Guns: 3 observed destroyed 


Flak 88mm: 2 


Trucks: 50 (the Soviets deployed 
with tanks supported by 
truck borne troops) 


Pak 50mm: 1 

Personnel: 30 KIA, 100 WIA, 

6 MIA 


Personnel: no estimate 





The data show that 7.Pz.D. had a clear — indeed, crushing — 
tactical superiority over the Soviets. The German loss in tanks, for 
example, was an almost incredibly low two vehicles for an ex- 
change ratio in tanks of more than 50 to 1. This statistic cannot be 
explained in terms of just German superiority in tank-versus-tank 
and tank unit-versus-tank unit superiority in tank battles. It also 
cannot be explained just in terms of the Germans holding on to 
the battle area and quickly repairing their own lightly damaged 
but, for example, immobilized tanks. Hauptmann Schulz com- 
manding one tank battalion of Pz.R.25 in the Dubrova narrows 
did succeed, however, in taking the attacking Soviet force "in the 
flank" (as stated with division-level generality) thereby putting out 

l.Pz.D., la, Anlagen zum Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, Teil I, Abschlussergebnis der Panzerkampfe am 
7.7.41, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 406, Fr. 000574-000575. 

57 
s.I.G. or heavy infantry gun; l.I.G. or light infantry gun. 



66 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

of action 25 Soviet tanks without a loss to his battalion. The Ger- 
mans lost during the day two of their precious, heavy 88mm Flak 
which must have been pressed far forward in the ground battle to 
have been lost while probably giving a good account of themselves 
against the Soviet tanks. The German 37mm Pak which was use- 
less against the Soviet heavy tanks was capable of destroying the 
lighter BT-5 and 7 vehicles and probably accounted for a signifi- 
cant number of kills. The German personnel casualties speak for 
themselves. The Germans suffered heavy casualties, claimed no 
prisoners, and gave no estimates of Soviet losses. The question of 
the number of Soviets killed by the Germans in such a battle is 
both intriguing and important. It must be suspected that Soviet 
losses killed in a battle like this one were catastrophic perhaps as 
high as 15 times the number of Germans. 

The Soviets tended to be frustrated by the tactical damage that 
they were taking and committed numerous atrocities against the 
small number of German prisoners that came into their hands. 
This tactical frustration was compounded by the Soviet policy of 
claiming to their troops that the Germans shot all prisoners, 
"skinned them alive," etc. The Russians and other nationalities 
tended to accept the Soviet claims as literal truth and as a result of- 
ten fought to the death in hopeless tactical situations. On the other 
hand, as the Germans dropped thousands of surrender leaflets 
from the air, the Soviet troops discovered the possibility of survival 
through desertion and surrender after reasonable resistance not- 
withstanding the danger of being shot by their own officers and 
commissars. The Russians and others surrendered eventually in 
gigantic numbers in 1941 —the Germans took approximately 3.1 
million prisoners from 22 June-17 October 41. When under the 
control of their own leaders, however, they tended to be edgy, 
unpredictable, and brutal in the treatment of German prisoners. 
The German experience brings up the question of how do leaders 
prepare and instruct their men in combat against such an enemy. 

In the tough fighting of 7.Pz.D. on 7 July 41, the following 
combat action illustrates the toughness of the fighting, the 
unnecessary, indeed self defeating brutality of the Russians. 
Obergefreiter (Lance Corporal) Hans Steinert in 4./Pz.A.A.37 near 



Perspectives On Warfighting 67 



Marine Corps University 

Senno at 0430 came under fire in the truck in which he was "mov- 
ing forward." 58 He and three other soldiers leaped from the vehi- 
cle and returned the fire while the truck turned around and moved 
back not realizing that four men had been left behind. Two of the 
Germans were badly wounded a distance away from Steinert, who 
lay with a leg wound a few meters away from a nearer companion 
with a light hand wound. Steinert observed several Russian sol- 
diers move past the two severely wounded Germans and shoot 
each one twice in the head with pistol fire at a range of about one 
meter. One Russian now close to Steinert shot his lightly wounded 
comrade twice in the head and then approached him. Steinert 
played as if he had been killed; the Russian, nevertheless, shot him 
twice in the head with a pistol, but in a modest combat miracle 
both pistol rounds failed to penetrate his helmet. Such incidents 
were commonly reported among the captured then rescued Ger- 
man troops of 7.Pz.D. in the fluid offensive combat of the period. 
The situation suggests the requirement for systematic behavior on 
the part of troops overrun and tough discipline to prevent retalia- 
tion. 

After the violent battles of 7, 8 June 41, 7.Pz.D. began to move 
east again. Funck alerted the commander of K.7 and the chief (the 
Germans referred to leaders of units below those designated bat- 
talion as Chef or chief) of Pz.A.A.37 at 1315 9 July 41 that he was 
going to put them together as an advanced detachment to move di- 
rectly east from Senno. By 1440, K.7 had already sent out a recon- 
naissance troop 14 km east to Kobali that reported no Soviets 
along the road. The troop reported a startling finding, though, of 20 
Soviet tanks which had come under Stuka attack and had been 
abandoned by their crews under the assumption that the tanks had 
been put out of action. The German motorcyclists discovered the 
tanks to be "undamaged" and destroyed every one of them. Later 
in the afternoon, at 1830, the advanced detachment itself set out 
against the enemy vacuum to the east. At 1930, Schmidt as com- 
mander, XXXIX. Pz.K., somewhat excitedly, ordered the entire di- 

58 

See this account in, 7Pz.D., Ic, Tatigkeitsbericht, Russland I, Anlagen Zum lAbschnitt, 

Vernehmung, O.-Gefr. Steinert, 8.7.41, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 

436, Fr. 001147. 



68 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



vision to move out immediately to take advantage of the shaken 
and outpaced Soviets. Schmidt gave Funck the specific task to 
seize Vitebsk from the south (20.Pz.D. and 20.1.D. (mot.) would at- 
tack from north of the Dvina River) and advance as quickly as 
possible through Demidov toward Jarcewo east of Smolensk. 

During the next several days of 10-15 July 41, 7.Pz.D. would 
move with superlative offensive style. When the division launched 
coordinated attacks on 10 July 41 in the Dubrova narrows and the 
area immediately to the south, it still faced an advance of more 
than 195 km to Jarcewo against a Soviet opponent awakening to 
the realization that the central front before Moscow was about to 
collapse. Yet five days later, 7.Pz.D. stood on the "autobahn" be- 
tween Smolensk and Moscow blocking Soviet columns moving 
east and west and posing a fatal operational threat to all Soviet 
forces lying to the west of it. When Pz.R.25 faced strong resistance 
south of the narrows, Funck showed great flexibility by ordering it 
to break off its attack, move laterally along the front and follow 
S.R.7 which in the meantime had been making good progress di- 
rectly through the narrows since 0350 that morning. Later in the 
day at 1100, based on a major operational rearrangement of forces 
in Pz.Gr.3, Funck ordered the K.7 Kampfgruppe moving east be- 
yond Senno to halt, turn about, move laterally along the front and 
move in behind Pz.R.25 through the Dubrova narrows. Coming 
from the liens of encirclement of the pocket at Minsk were on a 
single day on 2 July 41 it had taken 30,000 Soviet prisoners, 
12.Pz.D. moved up as the right hand neighbor of 7.Pz.D. to pin 
down powerful, dangerous Soviet forces continuing to build up 
west of Smolensk. 

By 1100 11 July 41, Pz.R.25 had reached the southeast out- 
skirts of Vietbsk and engaged in heavy fighting against strong So- 
viet forces including tanks and artillery. Funck reinforced the tank 
regiment with an additional battery of Flak to be used in the fight 
against the Soviet tanks. By evening of the same day, Funck had 
concentrated the mass of the division immediately south of 
Vietbsk and was preparing to move directly east through Demidov 
85 km distant. During the early hours between 0100 and 0335 12 
July 41, Funck began to move the division east and east southeast 



Perspectives On Warfighting 69 



Marine Corps University 

from Vitebsk. At 0440, the division army aviation detachment re- 
ported 100 Soviet tanks marching in from the southeast toward 
Vietbsk and only about 18 km away. An extraordinary strategic sit- 
uation was beginning to develop in which the Soviet high com- 
mand in the area opposite German Army Group Center was com- 
mitting powerful forces to regain Vitebsk from the south and de- 
fend the Smolensk land bridge well to the west of Smolensk. At the 
very same moment, 7.Pz.D. was heading east away from Vietbsk to 
seize the distant target of Jarcewo. The situation was as bizarre as 
one is likely to find in war: German troops of 7.Pz.D. advancing 
with two other mobile divisions from Vitebsk, east toward Jarcewo 
while immediately to the south, strategic level Soviet forces were 
marching west to take Vitebsk. One high command had to be out 
of touch with strategic reality. 



By 13 July 41, Funck and 7.Pz.D. had begun to give evidence 
of the tempo and sense of urgency that characterized the drive in 
France from Dinant to Arras (13-21 May 40) and the breathtaking 
pace of 25 June 41 to Vilna to beyond Minsk. As the tanks of 
Pz.R.25 rolled (rolltPz. Rqt. 25: uncharacteristically dramatic entry 
in War Diary) at 0000 on 13 July, Funck put himself and the opera- 
tions staff with that regiment. The division now moved well away 
from Vitebsk even though strong Soviet forces continued to battle 
immediately to the southeast of the city, i.e., in the rear of the Ger- 
mans. As early as 0700, advanced detachment Boineburg signalled 
that it was fighting in Kolyski 48 km almost due east to Vietbsk. 
Funck followed the advanced detachment with Pz.R.25 when at 
1225 he received the order from corps headquarters to advance 
along an additional axis well to the north through Janovici. Funck, 
with some operational agility, ordered an element of the advance 
designated march group Lungerhausen and consisting of strong 
elements of S.R.7 to change direction and move through Janovici 
which lay 37 km northeast of Vitebsk. During the evening at 2020 
the advanced elements of advanced detachment Boineburg 
reached Demidov 85 km from Vitebsk, and at 2330 on the other 
axis of advance Lungerhausen and S.R.7 seized Janovici. Omi- 
nously though, strong Soviet forces continued to battle their way 
toward Vitebsk from the southeast. 



70 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

Although Funck and the division staff never looked back over 
their shoulders, the rear elements of the division faced a crisis that 
threatened the advance of the entire XXXIX.Pz.K. north of 
Smolensk. At 0600 24 July 41, Major LG. Liese, lb, 7.Pz.D. coming 
back through Vietbsk from the advanced elements of the division 
ran into strong Soviet forces with infantry, tanks, and artillery only 
3 km from the outskirts of Vitebsk on the great (wide but unpaved) 
main road from Smolensk. Liese ordered the drivers and assistant 
drivers of the trucks of the division supply columns with him to 
leave their vehicles and defend the road with rifles and machine 
guns. Looking around for assistance, Liese came on a German pio- 
neer company and an infantry company nearby engaged in road 
repair and formed a blocking force now of several hundred men to 
halt the tough but cautious Soviets. By 0900, Liese, now in the 
Quartermaster Detachment (i.e., the logistics force of the division) 
command post, asked the Operations Staff of the division for as- 
sistance. The la of 7.Pz.D., now almost 100 km away to the east 
with the mass of the division, told Liese with a combination of 
coolness, concentration on the advance, and total underestimation 
of the dangers that there could be no help from division. Liese 
thereupon drove to the nearby command post of XXXIX. Pz.K., 
presented the advance-threatening crisis and observed the Chief of 
Staff of XXXIX. Pz.K order 1.R.90 (Mot.) of 20.1.D. (mot), i.e., an 
entire regiment from another division, to move immediately to 
save the situation. 



The utter concentration of Funck and the operations staff on 
the advance is illustrated by the events of 14 July 41. The lb had 
warned the la that the division supply line had been cut by the So- 
viet advance around 0600. Early in the afternoon, the division fuel 
and ammunition columns still could not move through the middle 
of the heavy battle that had developed as 1.R.90 (mot.) intervened 
in the fighting. The supply crises could not have been more real 
and immediate. Yet at 1534, the lb received from the la a message 
that can be paraphrased as follows: where are your foremost sup- 
ply columns? how is the march going? how much fuel has the sup- 
ply detachment got with its columns? The lb remarked in the 
Quartermaster war diary: "At the Quartermaster Detachment we 



Perspectives On Warfighting 71 



Marine Corps University 

received this message with absolute incomprehensibility." 59 At 
this juncture in the war in the east, Funck and the operations staff 
of 7.Pz.D. had some special sense of the great victory they were 
about to win and pressed on against a surprised and confused op- 
ponent. Funck and the la showed steady nerves and a will to advance 
that matched the opportunity that presented itself. Instead of turning 
about to address danger to the west, they continued to advance to 
take advantage of decisive operational opportunity to the east. At 
2055 14 July 41, the advanced detachment of Hauptmann Schulz of 
Pz.R.25 stood at the lake narrows 20 km east southeast of Demidov 
and now 105 km east of powerful Soviet forces continuing to attack 
against 12.Pz.D. south of Vietbsk (See Map 6). 

The next morning, 15 July 41, the division commander or- 
dered the advance to begin to take the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow 
"autobahn" near Ulchova-Sloboda approximately 48 km northeast 
of Smolensk. The lb announced early in the morning that fuel col- 
umns had moved well beyond Vitebsk carrying 125 cbm (cubic 
meters: one cbm equivalent to 264 U.S. gallons) or 33,000 gallons of 
gasoline for the tanks of the division, all of which had gasoline en- 
gines, and the trucks, almost all of which had such engines. 
Hauptmann Schulz with the advanced detachment of the division 
passed through Duchovscina at 1730 and reached the Moscow- 
Smolensk "autobahn" at 1900 still during daylight. An hour and a 
half later, S.Brig.7 reached the "autobahn" in the immediate vicini- 
ty of Jarcewo. Troops and tanks of 7.Pz.D. stood blocking the 
unpaved, immense (in some places 100 feet wide) main line of road 
communication for approximately 500,000 Soviet troops lying far 
to the west and engaged with strong German forces which would 
now attempt to prevent their escape east. 

In less than 48 hours on 14, 15 July 41, the division had moved 
more than 160 km through the Soviet Union, taken almost no 
casualties, and achieved a strategic-level, potentially war winning 
dislocation of the Soviet defenses in the forefield of Moscow now 
only about 190 km away. The division advanced with no friendly 

59 

See in, 7.Pz.D., lb, Kriegstagebuch der Quartiermeister-Abteilung, 1. Juni 41-28. Januar 42, 

14.7.41, U.S., Archives, German Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 423, Fr. 000045. 



72 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



£v£aS 






T-* 



'O 



<* 



o 



o 

N 
X 

25 

en 

a 



m m 

o 
z 

H 



5 

r 
r 



KILOMETERS 



20 40 60 80 100 120 



fY-i 



^ > 

n 
x 

O 
> 



Map 6. Advance of 7.Pz.D. to effect 
encirclements at Smolensk 
and west of Vyasma. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



73 



Marine Corps University 

neighboring divisions keeping pace and with an extraordinarily 
challenging supply situation in terms of both the enemy and the 
unpaved and often extremely primitive Russian roads. On 15 July 
41, Headquarters, VIII. Air Corps informed the division at 0915 
that the main effort of the Luftwaffe for the day would be in sup- 
port of its advance. The division moved with so great a tempo that 
it bowled over surprised Russian forces without need of ground at- 
tack sorties by the Luftwaffe. On the other hand, the war diary of 
the division records no Soviet air attack and the advancing Ger- 
mans may have been given a special but not measurable impetus 
by the lighter aircraft of VIII. Air Corps in preventing air attack on 
the Germans' combat and supply columns. On the other hand, it is 
possible that 7.Pz.D. had been lost by the Soviet high command, 
which in turn would have been unable (obviously) to coordinate 
air or ground attack against a German division that was no longer 
on Soviet operational maps even remotely close to its actual loca- 
tion. 

By the morning of 16 July 41, the Soviet high command knew 
exactly where 7.Pz.D. was located. Reconnaissance aircraft organ- 
ic to 7.Pz.D. reported Soviet columns lined up one behind the 
other on the "autobahn" east of Jarcewo under German artillery 
fire. 60 By 0630, S.Brig.7 held a short stretch of "autobahn" effec- 
tively enough to prevent any further Soviet use for the rest of the 
battle. The division brought the rail station at Jarcewo under fire of 
heavy artillery (150mm howitzers and long-barreled guns) at 0930. 
Just to the west of Jarcewo, S.Brig.7 signalled that it had blocked 
the rail line that ran parallel with the "autobahn" and was the 
main rail connection between Smolensk and Moscow. Located 
squarely on its target, 7.Pz.D. would stay fixed close to those posi- 
tions blocking the main route of advance and withdrawal for the 
main concentration of the Red Army. 7.Pz.D. had demonstrated 
the technical mobility and firepower and the operational style to 
advance almost freely on several critical days through the Soviet 
Union. The question now was: had the division gone too far, too 
fast? Had it arrived with the combat capability, the critical opera- 

See, for example, l.Pz.D., la, Einsatz Ost, Band 1, Fleigermeldung, 16.7.41, U.S., Archives, 
German REcords, Divisions, T-315, Roll 410, Fr. 000752. 



74 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

tional mass necessary to defend itself and to hold what it had so 
daringly seized? Would it be successful when forced to remain vir- 
tually unmoved in fixed positions? 

From 16 July-5 August 41, 7.Pz.D. defended itself against at- 
tacks from east and west with troop units sometimes placed almost 
back to back. See, for example, Maps 7 and 8 (in appendix) that 
show the situations on 25 and 28 July 41 in which 7.Pz.D. has final- 
ly linked up with 17.Pz.D., arriving from the south. Map 8 shows 
7.Pz.D. on 28 July 41 in positions facing east and west and only 5 
km apart, an intriguing situation for artillery and air support. For 
7.Pz.D., the situation was a hair-raising one that called for strong 
nerves. Approximately 450,000 Soviet troops lay to the west of the 
division at this time and their direct line of escape looked down the 
Smolensk-Moscow "autobahn." To the east, the newly formed So- 
viet 24th Army stood with its route of advance lying down the same 
"autobahn" and slightly to the north of it. The great achievement 
of 7.Pz.D. had been to seize several kilometers of the "autobahn." 
The division stood there marked now for reinforcement by the 
Germans and extinction by the Soviets. 

7.Pz.D. projected itself on 15 July 41 into a unique situation. 
The division had advanced so far that when it reached its target it 
found itself essentially in a void. It faced no coherent Soviet threat 
from the east or the west; there were many Soviet armed forces per- 
sonnel around but they were concentrated in supply columns, col- 
umns of evacuated wounded, and loosely controlled reinforce- 
ments moving west. In effect, a German Panzer division lay "in the 
middle of European Russia untouched by the Soviets for the two 
days of 16, 17 July 41 after its arrival. During the same period, the 
Soviets continued to awake to the dangers of the impending catas- 
trophe in their Western Military District. On 15 July, the head- 
quarters of the entire Soviet western front found itself in Smolensk 
now cut off from the rest of the Soviet Union along the main routes 
of movement. The Soviets reacted with their characteristic frenetic 
and casualty-producing energy, and during 18 and 19 July 41, 
launched extremely strong attacks from the east alongside of and 
right down the "autobahn." The attacks were uncoordinated with 
the huge- force partly encircled to the west, and were also 

Perspectives On Warfighting 75 



Marine Corps University 

uncoordinated at the operational level among the divisions availa- 
ble for attack. Moreover, the attacks were uncoordinated at the tac- 
tical level with infantry, tanks, and artillery engaging independent- 
ly of one another. The attacks failed on 18, 19 July and none would 
succeed in preventing the essential destruction of the Soviet forces 
to the west which would give up by approximately 3 August 41, 
309,000 prisoners. 

In the violent battles of 18 July 41, the Soviets attacked with 
about 100 tanks along the "autobahn" into the positions of a single 
German battalion, namely I./S.R.7, commanded by Major Weitzler. 
The battalion fought off the Soviet attack that began at 1635 with 
Flak, Pak 9 and artillery and claimed the destruction of 35 Soviet 
tanks. The Germans credited Gefreiter Weiss, a gunner on an 
88mm Flak of I./Flak36, a Luftwaffe battalion attached at that mo- 
ment to T.Pz.D., with the "shooting up" of 20 Soviet tanks alone. 61 
Weiss, of course, fought as part of a gun crew, but he largely ac- 
quired the targets, laid the gun on them and made all of the subtle 
adjustments necessary to get the rounds on target in direct fire. The 
incident shows the Germans at their tactical best. In it, a private in 
the Luftwaffe has the skill in firing an antiaircraft gun that had 
been thoughtfully provided with ground firing optics during its 
prewar development to achieve an operational level result in the 
single most important engagement fought that day on the eastern 
front. This achievement was not lost on the German command. At 
2200 that evening, the commander of II./Flak 38 arrived at the divi- 
sion command post and announced that his 8. and 9. batteries 
were on the way to reinforce the defense. 

During the fighting noted above, the division ordered Pz.R.25 
into the area northwest of Fomina near Duchovscina against a 
strong enemy advancing from the west into the division defensive 
perimeter. This fighting developed during the early evening of 18 
July 41 and involved numbers of tanks on both sides. The Ger- 
mans employed Flak, Pah, and artillery in support of their tanks as 
the fighting continued on into the hours of darkness. Pz.R.25 

61 See in, 7Pz.D., la, Einsatz, Ost, Band 1, Berichte, 19.7.1941, U.S., National Archives, Ger- 
man Records, Divisions, T-315, Roll 410, Fr. 000738. 



76 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

counted 25 Soviet tanks lying immobilized or destroyed in front of 
its position the next morning. In fighting this successful action, 
Pz.R.25 (with IL/A.R.78 attached) secured the division main sup- 
ply route from Duchovscina to Jarcewo and began to set the lines 
of encirclement around the Soviet forces at Smolensk. The situa- 
tion had been chaotic and dangerous along that route; for exam- 
ple, earlier at 0230 on 18 July 41, the road had been overrun by the 
Soviets farther west about halfway to Demidov. The Soviets there 
had attacked also from the west but the successful action of 
Pz.R.25 and units of 20.Pz.D. on the same day began to stabilize 
the German lines of encirclement. 

Early the next morning, 19 July 41, as directed by corps, I./ 
S.R.112 arrived from 20.Pz.D. to support the German defense of 
the "autobahn." Later at 0905, Headquarters, VIII. Air Corps in- 
formed 7.Pz.D. that it would be supported by the considerable total 
of 56 combat aircraft during the day. After getting increasing evi- 
dence of the Soviets massing for an attack, the division abruptly 
came under attack by approximately 80 Soviet tanks again in the 
vicinity of the "autobahn" near Jarcewo. The Soviets attacked with 
tanks and infantry well supported by artillery and "bombers" even 
though the Soviet Air Force suffered from catastrophic losses in 
aircraft— the Germans had destroyed on the ground or in the air 
approximately 2,050 Soviet aircraft in the first 17 hours of the war 
alone. The German motorized infantry comprising approximately 
two battalions at this time supported by a Panzer company suc- 
cessfully held the positions all along the line. As the division 
swung to the defensive, the la directed that the first priority in 
resupply be changed from fuel to ammunition — specifically artil- 
lery ammunition. 

At midnight on 19 July 41, Funck and his division still faced 
an acute situation in survival. The main supply route continued to 
be difficult to move along and the division was not yet linked with 
neighbors on either side. In the middle of the night Funck and the 
la worked to get as strong Stuka dive bomber support as possible 
for the next day. Various battalion and regimental level organiza- 
tions of the division changed the locations of their command posts 
during the early morning from 0000-0400 and S.Brig.7 suffered 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



Marine Corps University 



from having all of its internal telephone lines cut by the intense 
Soviet artillery fire. Between 0745 and 1100, Stuka (Ju 87) dive 
bombers and He III two-engined tactical bombers make attacks 
that reduced the Soviet artillery fire to a more acceptable level. By 
noon on 20 July 41, corps headquarters had begun to coordinate 
the movement of 12.Pz.D. into position on the division left and 
20.1.D. (mot.) on the right. Units of those two divisions began to ar- 
rive alongside of 7.Pz.D. by the evening and stabilize the situation. 

During the period 21-23 July, the three divisions organized 
their defenses to prevent the breakin or breakout of Soviet forces 
on the central front along the Moscow "autobahn." At the same 
time, the Soviet high command continued the formation of the 
new 24th Army specifically ordering a powerful element of several 
divisions designated as Group Kalinin to breakthrough the Ger- 
man positions on an axis running through Duchovscine, i.e., a line 
running through 12.Pz.D. and into the rear of 7.Pz.D. and 20.1.D. 
(mot.), to destroy those German forces and maintain the front 
around Smolensk. Map 9 (in appendix) illustrates how 12.Pz.D. 
counterattacked to destroy Group Kalinin and 7.Pz.D. maintained 
its positions around Jarcewo on 24 July 41. On 25 July 41, 7.Pz.D. 
edged several kilometers south of the "autobahn" to link up with 
17.Pz.D. and for the next several days from 26 July-August 41 
fought successfully to effect the destruction of the Soviet forces 
now trapped around Smolensk. Later, on the evening of 5-6 August 
41, 7.Pz.D. was relieved by an infantry division and went into rest 
positions behind the lines northeast of Smolensk. Soon thereafter 
the war would change for Germany, and although 7.Pz.D. fought 
often and well, never again would they have the opportunity to 
achieve strategically what they had in the past. 



78 Perspectives On Warfighting 



Chapter HI 

Observations on the Combat 
Performance of the 7th Panzer 
Division and Suggested Actions 
for the Improvement of Marine 
Corps Operational Capabilities 



\^J nder a renowned commander of World War II (Rom- 
mel), 7.Pz.D. achieved extraordinary results fighting on the offen- 
sive in France in 1940. Under a commander unknown today 
(Funck), the division achieved even more extraordinary results in 
the opening stages of the surprise offensive against the Soviet 
Union in 1941. In both cases the division engaged first class oppo- 
nents who had vast resources in men and materiel. In both cases, 
the Germans advanced against opponents well prepared for war, 
but utterly surprised by the division's direction, timing, violence 
and above all, tempo. The word "tempo" describes the Germans 
and particularly 7.Pz.D. on the offensive, or more precisely, the 
phrase: "tempo prestissimo" rapid tempo. 

The Germans were so successful at the tactical and operation- 
al levels in part due to their historic circumstances. From the 1890s 
and thereafter, they faced powerful coalitions whose strengths lay 
in resources, blockades, and attrition. The Germans, if they were to 
succeed, had to conduct brief, overpowering ground offensives 
against numerous enemies conducting unhurried siege operations 
against them. As "prisoners" of their historical condition, the Ger- 
mans had to fight battles and conduct operations more effectively 
than any of their enemies. Having to conduct ground combat more 
effectively than any other nation, the Germans, in fact, in two 



Perspectives On Warfighting 79 



Marine Corps University 

world wars did exactly that. While they were ultimately defeated at 
the strategic level, their tactical and operational achievements re- 
main unmatched. The question for all other western ground forces 
today is whether the superior warfighting style of the Germans is 
transferable. 

The uniqueness of the German historic situation is accentu- 
ated when we look farther back in time to the 1700s and early 
1800s. The army and general staff of Prussia gave its command 
style and combat spirit to the German army of 1914-1945. Prussia 
stood surrounded during that earlier period by strong natural 
enemies and survived only by some special insights into war fight- 
ing not quite achieved by any other armed force to the present day. 
Prussia transferred the tradition of a great captain (Frederick I), 
the flexibility of the reformers of the Napoleonic period (Scharn- 
horst), the insights of a philosopher of war (Clausewitz), and suc- 
cinct, practical style of a great chief of staff (Moltke) to a later army 
of 1914-1945 that continued to have to attack to win. It can be no 
surprise, therefore, that the German army operated on the offen- 
sive more effectively than any other. 

But how can U.S. ground forces today conduct offensive oper- 
ations better than at present within the framework of a military tra- 
dition of war since 1914 as an exercise in logistics, and a present 
day political stance that concedes to the opponent the great open- 
ing offensive in which the Germans sparkled? Under such circum- 
stances, is it even possible to transfer the superior German style in 
offensive operation to U.S. ground forces "imprisoned" by so dif- 
ferent a set of historical circumstances? The answer to these ques- 
tions is yes we can learn from the Germans, but it is harder than it 
seems. For example, the Germans, using the Prussian General 
Staff, defeated France decisively in 1870-71. This caused every im- 
portant power of the world (including the United States with its 
small army of the day) to develop a general staff system based on 
the Prussian-German model. Not one state, however, was able to 
do more than follow the form while essentially failing to under- 
stand the content. 

What then was the "content" of the advance of the 7.Pz.D in 
France in 1940 and the Soviet Union in 1941? The Germans of 

80 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

1940 and 1941 accepted the uncertainty in war. The U.S. Army and 
the Marine Corps, at times seem to almost fear uncertainty. They 
attempt to eradicate uncertainty in war and as a result demand 
that officers and noncommissioned officers not make mistakes. 
The German army embraced the central reality of uncertainty in 
war and rode it to operations of unparelleled tempo and daring. 
The German army encouraged its men to act and accepted the fact 
that they would make mistakes. 7.Pz.D. exemplified this philoso- 
phy: it was always right to act; it was always wrong to wait for more 
information, more troops, more fire support to clear up uncertain- 
ty. Rommel and Funck and the division exemplified this willing- 
ness to accept uncertainty, this determination to act, this prefer- 
ence of the oral order over the written. Commanders must com- 
mand. The staff are expediters, few in numbers, modest in rank but 
long in self confidence and initiative. 

It may be difficult for other western armies to achieve the tem- 
po regularly maintained by 7.Pz.D.. The Germans, which 7.Pz.D. 
represents so well, had a unique historical development and 
bolder approach to the realities of combat. It may be possible to 
test or practice, nevertheless, some of the techniques and the style 
of the Germans that specifically defined tempo in 7.Pz.D.. If in test 
and practice, the specific techniques and style prove to be transfer- 
able, it can be assumed that the western ground force modified 
thusly would be a far more dangerous animal on the offensive. A 
First Observation that can be made on the dramatic drive of 7.Pz.D. 
under Rommel from the Belgian border to Arras in Northwestern 
France is that the division advanced and fought 24 hours a day. 

7.Pz.D. fought in a pattern in which it consistently reached its 
targets for "the day" (24-hour day) early in the evening, 
reorganized, and advanced toward the next day's target at approxi- 
mately the middle of the night, 7.Pz.D. and other German divi- 
sions, did roughly as much fighting and moving at night as they 
did during the long summer hours of daylight. Virtually all of the 
photographs taken in the campaign and the written descriptions 
result in an extremely misleading picture of the campaign. The 
photographs, of technical necessity, are almost exclusively day- 
light scenes. Works on the campaign dwell similarly on the "days," 



Perspectives On Warfighting 81 



Marine Corps University 

i.e., "implied" daylight hours, of the campaign. There is an impor- 
tant exception in the night evacuation of British and French troops 
by sea, but even these scenes tend to reinforce the picture of war in 
a summer sun during almost all of the campaign. The Germans of 
7.Pz.D. operated 24 hours a day and slept whenever they could; all 
this apparently, without any "doctrine" on the matter. Unlike the 
Israelis who self consciously tout their "concept" of fighting 24 
hours a day in a mini, ultra-brief advance as in the June 1967 war, 
the Germans seemed almost "instinctively" to have fought 24 
hours a day. 

But, of course, the success of the 7.Pz.D was more than just 24 
hour operations. The German commanders of tank divisions sta- 
tioned themselves forward in the mobile advance. The la of the 
German division dominated the extremely small division staff that 
in turn had little inertia or friction in its parts. No "Chief had to 
be consulted by a commanding officer in a German division to get 
on the division commander's calendar. There was no chief; there 
was an officer skilled in advising the commander on the opera- 
tions of the division in war and keeping track of the fighting. This 
officer had neither the rank nor the inclination to get between the 
commanding general and his subordinate commanders. His hu- 
mility ended there, however, because he issued orders in the name 
of the commander binding on the entire division. This officer also 
functioned unquestioned even when it was apparent that he was 
acting independently in crises that demanded action. 

The division was never slowed by friction, over-planning, and 
debate in the staff. The Commander's will dominated the scene, 
not the bureaucratic, decisionless presence of the staff. If the divi- 
sion commander had even the casual inclination to advance, he 
and the division advanced. With so little inertia and friction in the 
command style and organization of the division, when the division 
commander moved, the division moved with him. 

The Germans manned and organized the staffs of their divi- 
sions in a way that encouraged their decisiveness and speed in 
combat. Every German division in 1939 and thereafter in World 
War II referred to the officers in the enumerated positions la, lb, 



82 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

and Ic in various ways including operations officer, quartermaster, 
and intelligence officer respectively and also first general staff offi- 
cer for operations, first general staff officer for supply, and first 
general staff officer for intelligence. Only the la and lb, however, 
were ever actual general staff officers, i.e., officers who had been se- 
lected to go to the two-year course at the Kriegsakademie (War 
Academy) and had successfully completed that education. 62 (Any 
statement that the German division had three general staff officers 
is therefore misleading. 63 ) 

In the division, there was an Operations Staff (Fuhrungs 
Staffel) that included the la, lb and Ha (Personnel) and concentrat- 
ed on operational matters. There was also a Quartermaster Staff 
{Quartiermeister Staffel) in the division that included the lb and sev- 
eral staff assistants. General Staff Officers were a rare commodity. 
They had fabled competence, and the division commander de- 
pended on them to provide the necessary staff work and staff su- 
pervision. The two officers did just that. The la supervised opera- 
tions, the lb supervised supply and everything else. They did so 
through the two staffs noted above and the Operations and Quar- 
termaster Detachments respectively controlled by them. 

To illustrate the streamlined style of the Germans in staff 
functioning, compare the staff of 7.Pz.D. with Marine Corps staffs. 
Figure 24 contrasts the "staff of the 7.Pz.D., a formation of approx- 
imately 15,500 personnel and 284 tanks in June 41, with the staff of 
a Marine Corps infantry battalion of 1989. The immediate general 
staff sections of the German Panzer division contained seven staff 
officers (3 Majors, 4 Captains) in contrast to the parallel imme- 
diate battalion staff sections of the Marine Corps infantry battalion 
with 12 staff officers (2 Majors, 5 Captains, 5 Lieutenants). The 

See , for example, Das Deutsche Heer 1939, Gliederung, Stellenbesetezung, Verzeichnis 
samtlicher Offiziere am 3.1.1939, Herausgegeben von H.H. Podzun (Bad Nauheim, 1953), in 
which all 51 of the full strength German peacetime divisions of early 1939 are shown as hav- 
ing two general staff officers. 

See, Martin van Creveld, Fighting Power, German Military Performance, 1914-1945 
(Washington, D.C., December 1980), pp. 55, 56. The diagram here just combines the "three 
general staff officers" in a "Section I, Operations" and is misleading also because there was 
no Staffel and no detachment in a German division that included the la, lb, and Ic. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 83 



Marine Corps University 

staff officers in the immediate staff sections of a Marine infantry 
battalion (1989) outnumber the parallel German staff officers of a 
German Panzer division (1941) by a factor of almost two to one. 
The contrast is so extreme that it cannot be explained in terms of 
the special necessities of amphibious operations and the increas- 
ing technical (hardware) complexity of war. 





Marine Infantry Battalion (1989) 
(LtCol) Battalion Commander 
(Maj) Battalion XO 




S-l S-2 


S-3 S-4 


(Capt) S-l/Adj ( 
(Lt) Pers 


Capt) S-2 Intel 


(Maj) S-3 (Capt) S-4 
(Capt) Asst S-3 (Lt ) S^A Embark 
Lt) Liaison (Lt ) S-4A MMO 
(Capt) Asst S-3 
(Lt) Asst S-3 FAC 

plus 

several special staff 
officers in support of 
entire battalion 




Totals 

12 Officers: 
2 Maj 
5 Capt 
5Lt 




German 7th Panzer Division (1941) 
(BGen) Division Commander 


( 


)perations Staff 


Quartermaster Staff 




( 
( 
( 
( 
( 


Maj) la Ops 
Capt) Asst la 
Capt) Ic Intel 
Maj) Ila Pers 
Capt) Asst Ila 


(Maj) lb Quartermaster 
(Capt) Asst lb 

plus 

modest number of special staff 

officers in the Quartermaster 

Detachment 




Totals 

7 Officers: 

3 Maj 

4 Capt 







Figure 24. Marine Infantry Battalion and German 7th Panzer Divi- 
sion Staff Sections. 



84 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



It would be reasonable also to contrast the staff of 7.Pz.D. with 
that of the present day Marine Corps division. Figure 25 contrasts 
the same "staff of 7.Pz.D. discussed above with the staff of a Ma- 
rine division as authorized by T/O 1986G of 10 January 1989 and 
found in the "Div HQ HQ CO HQ BN MAR DIV." The figure 
shows the same seven staff officers of 7.Pz.D. lined up against the 





Marine Division (1989) 






(MGen) Division Commander 






(BGen) Asst Div Commander 






(Col) Chief of Staff W/(Maj) Ops 






Analysis (Capt) Asst 




( 


G-l 


G-2 G-3 


G-4 




(Col) G-l 


(Col) G-2 (Col) G-3 


(Col) G-4 


(LtCol) Asst G-l (LtCol) Asst G-2 (LtCol) Asst G-3 


(LtCol) Asst G-4 


(LtCol Asst G-l (LtCol) Asst (LtCol) OPS 


(LtCol) Plans 


Maj) Asst G-l 


(LtCol) Intell (Maj) Asst OPS 


(Maj) Plans 


(LtCol) Human (Capt) Analysis (Maj) Civ Affairs 


(Maj) OPS 


(Maj) Drugs 


(Capt) Asst EW 


(Capt) Asst OPS 




(Capt) Affirm 




(LtCol) WPNS Employ 


plus 




Totals 




plus 




30 Officers: 




innumerable special 


(Col) Asst C/S 




1 BGen ] 


!Maj 


staff officers in H&S Bn 


Readiness 




6 Col 


7 Capt 








11 LtCol 










German 7th Panzer Division (1941) 






(BGen Division Commander 




Operations Staff Quartermaster Staff 




(Maj) la 


(Maj) lb Quartermaster 




(Capt) Asst la 


(Capt) Asst lb 




(Capt) Ic Intel 






(Maj) Ila Pers 








(Capt) Asst Ila 


plus 






Totals 




7 Officers: 
3 Maj 


modest number of special staff 




officers in the Quartermaster 






Detachment 






4 Capt 















Figure 25. Marine Division and German 7th Panzer Division Staff 
Sections. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



85 



Marine Corps University 

parallel staff officers of the staff sections of the headquarters of the 
Marine division. Including the Assistant Division Commander, 
the division included 30 officers distributed as follows: 1 BGen, 6 
Col, 11 LtCol, 11 Maj, and 7 Capt. In the case of this comparison, 
the Marine staff officers outnumber the Germans by more than 
four to one. The story does not end here, however, because the 
comparison should also take account in some way of the higher 
ranks of the Marine officers. Assigning the present day numbers 
for officer ranks of 1 through 9 (i.e., derived from 01-09) to get an 
idea of the weight in terms of the ranks of the two staffs, we get a 
rank weight of 24 for 7.Pz.D. and a contrasting weight of 163 for 
the modern Marine division with the Marine staff outweighing the 
Germans by a factor of almost seven to one. 

Why fundamentally has the Marine Corps come to put together 
a small city around its division commander? The key to this is 
probably the previously discussed factor of uncertainty in war. 
With its armed violence and accompanying chaos, war is the realm 
of uncertainty and chance. The immense staff of a Marine division 
can be seen as an attempt to remove uncertainly from combat. The 
greater the numbers of officers, the higher their ranks, the more in- 
formation they can gather, all of these things represent a funda- 
mental urge to remove uncertainty from war. In their divisions, the 
Germans confronted uncertainty with action. The la dominated 
the small staff and ensured that priority went to operational action. 
The size of the Marine staff, in contrast, shows that it tends to con- 
centrate on removing uncertainty and guaranteeing success 
through plan and preparation rather than mobile action. Unless 
this fundamental error is confronted and changed, it will be diffi- 
cult to reduce the size of staffs and make rapid tempo a constant. 

Which brings us to the first of six suggested actions: 

7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #7 
Based on the striking differences in size and 
rank between the staffs of the Marine division 
(1989) and the German 7th Panzer Division (1941), 
the Marine Corps should form an experimental 
staff unit. Such an experiment would emphasize 



86 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

simulated combat on the offensive and would use 
the organization and style of the 7th Panzer Divi- 
sion as a guide to the possibilities of improved oper- 
ational capability. 

Associated with rapid tempo, Rommel introduced into 7.Pz.D. 
the use of the Stosslinie (thrust line) to direct movements of the di- 
vision, to locate any unit or person, and to direct supporting fire. 
Depending upon the situation, division headquarters would pass 
the thrust line as part of a written operations order or by radio 
message. Thrust lines would begin and end at clearly defined 
points on the appropriate operational maps and would be in effect 
for a day or more. The thrust line had a brilliant psychological 
component to it because it pointed every unit and man in the divi- 
sion along a clear main axis. Perhaps more than anything, the 
thrust line was graphic. It pointed the way unmistakably. On 15 
July 41, Funck drew the thrust line boldly to the train station at 
Jarcewo astride the mail rail line between Smolensk and Moscow. 
The successful use of the thrust line suggests the following action 
on the part of the Marine Corps today: 

7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #2 
Based on the conceptualization of a great com- 
mander of World War II and the successful applica- 
tion of the concept by him and others in 7.Pz.D. 
in 1940 and 1941, the Marine Corps should experi- 
ment through map exercises and organizational 
tests with use of thrust lines for Marine Corps oper- 
ations in offensive situations. 

Clearly any review of the 7.Pz.D. and its rapid tempo suggests 
that the Marine Corps might profitably test its offensive capabili- 
ties by using combat scenarios that demand distant, rapid move- 
ment on the part of the division. The Marine Corps should test us- 
ing both field exercises and map exercise problems (particularly at 
places like the Command and Staff College). The question should 
be, does the Marine Corps have the style and capabilities to per- 
form as effectively as a division like the 7.Pz.D.? Scenarios should 
be chosen so that the entire division is tested in its capabilities to 



Perspectives On Warfighting 87 



Marine Corps University 



move out from a beachhead in deep mobile offensive operations. 
There is no intention in any of this to convert a Marine division 
into a "tank heavy," armored division; the idea is simply to study 
and test its capabilities to move quickly as a motorized division 
with, of course, special modern assets such as transport helicop- 
ters. 

The Marine Corps should also consider adding additional 
mobility to units within its divisions. In 7.Pz.D. one Panzer regi- 
ment and two motorized infantry regiments were its most impor- 
tant maneuver units. Unlike a Marine division today, which has an 
amphibious reconnaissance battalion but no real ground recon- 
naissance battalion, 7.Pz.D. had an armored reconnaissance de- 
tachment and a motorcycle battalion. The motorcycle battalion 
tended to get lost in the organization diagrams of the day by being 
placed within the motorized rifle brigade of 7.Pz.D.. The motorcy- 
cle battalion (K.7) of the division, however, was used almost exclu- 
sively by the division commander, who employed it reinforced as 
the advanced detachment of the division or as a characteristic, 
German-style, Kampfgruppe, maneuver element. The division com- 
mander employed the armored reconnaissance detachment (Pz AA37) 
almost identically. The end result: the 7.Pz.D. and every other Ger- 
man armored division of the day had essentially two reconnais- 
sance or "advanced detachment" style battalions. 

Under the fluid conditions of a major offensive, the division 
commander had the capability to keep things moving along two 
axes of advance. In France, Rommel would often send off K.7 in 
advance of the rest of the division and on several occasions per- 
sonally accompanied it in a couple of armored reconnaissance ve- 
hicles. Under such conditions, Rommel often orchestrated a sec- 
ond axis of advance somewhat to the rear and led by Pz.A.A.37 in 
a stronger Kampfgruppe in which it was the advanced detachment. 
In the Soviet Union, Funck used K.7 and Pz.A.A.37 similarly, and 
in the dramatic rush to the Moscow Autobahn near Jarcewo on 14, 
15, July 41, he had these particularly mobile elements moving 
along two axes of advance. K.7, with its two motorcycle companies 
and weapons company of 80mm mortars and Pak guns struck an 
effective balance between low "starting inertia" and combat power. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



Pz.AA.37, with its two armored reconnaissance vehicle com- 
panies, motorcycle company and mobile supporting infantry can- 
non, struck the same kind of balance. 

If the Marine Corps is interested in being able to mount a rap- 
id mobile advance out of a beachhead, it should experiment with 
the formation of either an armored reconnaissance battalion or a 
battalion with special mobility analogous to that of the motorcycle 
battalion in the German Panzer division. The success of 7.Pz.D. in 
deep mobile advances serves as evidence for the inclusion of both 
a reconnaissance and an additional mobile battalion in a Marine 
division. We should not reduce the capability of the Marine divi- 
sion to seize a different beachhead in the first place or defend it in 
the event of very strong opposition. The division, however, while 
retaining the capability to make an opposed landing, should have 
the additional capability and command style to advance out of a 
beachhead to seize distant targets on its own. In many modern sce- 
narios, the division may be called on to exploit its strategic mobility 
to make an unopposed landing in which case its operational mobility 
ashore becomes relatively more important. In such a case, the pre- 
mium would be on the mobility to advance deeply and boldly. For 
text, it would require units similar to those which 7.Pz.D. found 
indispensible in its advances of 1940 and 1941. Which leads to the 
following suggested action: 

7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #3 
Based on the extraordinary effectiveness of the 
German 7.Pz.D. on the offensive in World War II, 
the Marine Corps should put together an experi- 
mental armored reconnaissance battalion for inclu- 
sion in the Marine division and test the formation 
in scenarios that center on rapid, distant advance 
beyond beachheads in both opposed and unop- 
posed landings. In order to increase the capability 
of the Marine division to advance rapidly on two 
axes, the Marine Corps should calculate the desira- 
bility of an additional mobile formation of battal- 
ion level in the division analogous to the German 
motorcycle battalion. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 89 



Marine Corps University 

The "reconnaissance" battalion would have the capability to 
conduct ground reconnaissance both in depth and breadth and to 
screen the movement of the division on the offense and defense. 
The "motorcycle" battalion would have special capabilities in 
ground reconnaissance and screening and, additionally, could be 
armed and manned to provide significant strength in offensive 
and defensive combat. The division commander would have 
ready-made in both battalions "advanced detachments" to lead the 
division in a deep advance of the entire division. 

The commanders of 7.Pz.D. employed heavy weapons in a 
style that holds lessons for the Marine Corps today. Under both 
Rommel and Funck, 7.Pz.D. employed 20mm and 88mm Flak 
cannon against enemy infantry and tanks. The heavy Flak em- 
ployed by the division scored impressive successes against the 
French and Soviet heavy tanks (Char B, SOMUA and KV-1, 2, T- 
34); and, the light automatic Flak proved effective against Soviet 
infantry and the lightly armored T-26 infantry support and BT-5, 7 
fast tanks. The Germans faced a cruel dilemma in such employ- 
ment because the greater the success of Flak against tanks and in- 
fantry, the more it would be used against them and the less it 
would be available to carry out the primary mission of shooting 
down enemy aircraft. The Commanding General, XXXDCPz.K. in 
a directive of July 41 summed up the German situation by first ad- 
monishing Funck and his other division commanders for excess- 
ive casualties among Flak crews that had been pushed to the 
ground front in various crises; he warned them to save the Flak for 
air defense. He concluded the directive, however, by stating that 
tank attack more than any other factor could result in the destruc- 
tion of the division and that every Flak available would be pressed 
into use for the defense of the division when necessary. 64 

Working systematically in the 1930s, the Germans had devel- 
oped the 88mm Flak 36 technically into a dual purpose cannon. In 

^See in, 7Pz.D., la, Einsatz Ost, Band 2, Generalkommando XXXIXA.K., Abteilung la, K. Gef. 
St., den 25.7.1941, Betr.: Einsatz der Flakartillerie, U.S., Archives, German Records Division. 
T-315, Roll 410, Fr. 000707. 



90 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



a less well known case, they had employed the cannon in the Polish 
Campaign in an experimental heavy antitank battalion to test the 
tactical potential of the weapon in ground combat. By the time of 
the French Campaign, they were ready to use the weapon against 
aircraft, tanks, and against modern steel reinforced concrete forti- 
fications. No other power in World War II employed its 
antiaircraft weapons so flexibily. 7.Pz.D. exemplified the employ- 
ment in successes achieved against Allied tanks in the west in 1940 
and even greater successes against Soviet tanks and infantry in the 
east in 1941. The Germans proved capable through some combi- 
nation of systematic technical development and tactical spontanei- 
ty in extracting the most out of their weapons. Gefreiter Weiss high- 
lighted all of this when he put out of action 20 Soviet tanks on 18 
July 41, a single individual achieving an operational level result us- 
ing an antiaircraft gun against tough opponents like the Soviets. 
The Marines can learn from such actions. 

7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #4 
Based on the German employment of the 
88mm antiaircraft gun in ground combat as high- 
lighted by the 7.Pz.D. in France and the Soviet 
Union, the Marine Corps should reexamine every 
ongoing development of antiaircraft weapons to en- 
sure the development of dual purpose weapons ca- 
pable of firing at ground targets. 

Based on the same premises, the Marine Corps should test the 
capabilities of existing antiaircraft weapons available to it, e.g., 
weapons like Stinger and Redeye, against ground targets. Similar- 
ly, but with the direction of approach reversed, the Marine Corps 
should test the capabilities of its ground weapons such as tank 
cannon, light automatic cannon, and artillery against air targets. 

7.Pz.D. creatively used other weapons and equipment with 
verifiably effective results. The division received no close air sup- 
port in the style of the Marine Corps. The division received strong 
air support from the Stuka dive bombers directed characteristical- 
ly against artillery positions, tank assembly areas, and columns of 
tanks and vehicles on the road. The German air attacks in support 



Perspectives On Warfighting 91 



Marine Corps University 



of 7.Pz.D. took place almost universally at least a kilometer or 
more away from the positions of the division. Interrogations of 
prisoners conducted by the Ic staff in the Operations Detachment 
of the division show that the German air attacks disrupted Allied 
road movements and silenced artillery, the latter effect often taking 
place due to the presence of the Stukas. In the East, German air at- 
tacks broke up potential Soviet tank attacks by disorganizing 
strong armored formations in their assembly areas and reduced ar- 
tillery fire to acceptable levels or silenced it. The redoubtable 
Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel with strong claim to being the outstand- 
ing combat pilot in the history of military aviation received his 
E.K.I, on 18 July 41 largely for successful Stuka attacks against So- 
viet artillery positions. 65 In France, Rommel personally called for 
air attacks by Stukas several kilometers in front of his columns to 
"scatter" enemy forces. In the Soviet Union, Soviet prisoners con- 
sistently reported having experienced attack against their units on 
the move, with the result that their units became disorganized and 
"scattered." 66 The pattern of German air attack was clear and the 
results effective. In considering the requirements of mobile war- 
fare, the Marine Corps would be advised at least to compare and 
contrast the effectiveness of close air support as presently con- 
ducted with an eye toward trading it for "pretty close air support" 
as conducted by the Germans in their offensives in 1940 and 1941. 

7.Pz.D. used light signals as a common means of communi- 
cating important, time sensitive information. In contrast to the 
U.S. preference for smoke grenades, the Germans emphasized sev- 
eral varieties of rounds fired from a 27mm flare pistol. For the first 
day of the war against the Soviet Union, the division designated 
white star clusters especially as fired from the flare pistol as the sig- 
nal to mark the front lines of the 7.Pz.D. in the ultra fluid condi- 
tions of the first hours of combat. Visible from long distance from 
the air and on the ground, light signals are an instantaneously ef- 

^Interview. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Kufstein, Asutria, October 1978. 

The Germans characteristically used the word versprengte (scattered) to describe the 
condition of enemy troops hit hard by their attack. The word appears repeatedly in the rec- 
ords. 



92 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

fective way of alerting general and private soldier alike to momen- 
tary certainty in a sea of doubt. In support of 7.Pz.D., the Luftwaffe 
used red parachute flares dropped over Soviet tank assembly areas 
discovered near Jarcewo in close proximity (several kilometers) to 
division units and unknown at that moment to the ground troops. 
The Luftwaffe used the same signal later in July 41 to alert 7.Pz.D. 
troops immediately to the danger of Soviet tanks already advanc- 
ing toward the German lines. Within seconds of the signals being 
released hundreds of Germans knew immediately what was com- 
ing and from where. During the same time period, 7.Pz.D. em- 
ployed green star clusters fired from the ground towards the enemy 
to indicate the German front line for the Luftwaffe. The German 
experience suggests the following action: 

7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #5 
Based on the successful use of projected light 
signals from flare guns by 7.Pz.D. (and most other 
German combat formations), the Marine Corps 
should examine the advantages and disadvantages 
of projected signals and test available military and 
life saving flare pistols including projectors based 
on the M79 Grenade Launcher. 



The Germans developed a 16-man pneumatic rubber raft and 
a nine-man wooden assault boat for pioneer units for support of 
river crossings. 7.Pz.D. found the large boat (grosser Flossack) with 
its 5,500-lb capacity extremely useful in the numerous river and ca- 
nal crossings that punctuated the French Campaign and recom- 
mended in its report of experiences in the battle that the boat be is- 
sued to the motorized rifle regiments and the motorcycle battalion. 
The Germans designed the assault boat to sit low in the water and 
equipped it with an extremely well designed outboard motor. The 
big pneumatic boat although oared by a crew of seven, could be 
equipped with a motor and proved to be extremely successful as a 
ferry with several lashed together to carry trucks, guns, and 
supplies. Oars may sound a bit primitive today, but at several junc- 
tures in World War II, engines on assault boats could not be used 
because of the absolute tactical necessity to achieve surprise, for 



Perspectives On Warfighting 93 



Marine Corps University 

example, at night and in fog. The Marine Corps remains in an 
unusual condition in terms of river crossings; the Marine division 
has amphibious vehicles for ship to shore movement and a surfeit 
of transport helicopters. The very different tactical circumstance of 
mobile offensive combat ashore suggests that a study of the prob- 
lems presented by inland water barriers would turn up real chal- 
lenges. The German experience suggests that a relatively light 
pneumatic style boat/ferry might be a useful item for the Marine 
Corps. 

In his report on experiences of the French Campaign, the divi- 
sion commander essentially demanded that 7.Pz.D. be reequipped 
with two "K" type bridging columns for Pi.58, the division pioneer 
battalion. In the campaign, Pi.58 held only one older "B" style 
bridging column and was not able to react effectively enough for 
Rommel in the rapid pace of the division across the numerous Bel- 
gian and French rivers and canals. Somewhat surprisingly, the 
Germans with their well-known technical thoroughness had failed 
to incorporate two bridge columns in the pioneer company so that 
two water courses could be crossed by the fast moving Panzer divi- 
sion which sometimes found itself facing a second water course 
while the division bridging had not yet been retrieved from the pre- 
vious crossing. The Marine Corps could find it productive to look 
into a new balance in bridging columns and equipment and light 
river crossing pneumatic style boats for a Marine division 
reorienting itself in the direction of mobile warfare. 

From the viewpoint of command and control, 7.Pz.D. had an 
item of equipment that proved itself throughout the war and had 
been developed in the interwar period. The division held Panzer /, 
and Panzer 38(t) tanks that had been modified and converted into 
command vehicles for commanders of elements of Pz.R.25. These 
tanks qua (in the capacity of) command vehicles possessed the 
mobility and armor protection of tanks. German commanders in 
these special tanks had the capability to move anywhere in the bat- 
tle with vehicles having the armor and mobility of the strongest 
weapon in the division and without attracting special attention. In 
the case of the Panzer III version of the command tank, the Ger- 
mans removed the main gun, replaced it with a wooden dummy 

94 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



barrel, and produced a vehicle with adequate space for map tables 
and additional radio equipment. It would be reasonable for the 
Marine division to leave two such vehicles for the use of the tank 
battalion CO and XO with the latter vehicle "available" for use of 
the division commander. 

In the area of supply, 7.Pz.D. faced illuminating problems in 
keeping the fuel and ammunition columns of the division up with 
the mobile combat elements. Records of 7.Pz.D. reveal a two-fold 
problem. In big offensives involving strong friendly forces, the sup- 
ply columns had difficulties getting through friendly traffic behind 
the advancing combat troops. Also, the division sometimes faced 
disastrous attacks on supply columns from surviving enemy forces 
along the route of advance. In the Soviet Union, the lb pleaded for 
the setting up of a convoy system for the columns which was even- 
tually established for a short period in the last days of June 41 
northeast of Minsk. In the war diary of the lb, the quartermaster 
discussed the situation and recorded the suggestion that the supply 
columns include combat escort units of light armored vehicles as 
part of their tables of organization and equipment for the future. 

As a final tactical note, it should be pointed out that the com- 
manders and staff of 7.Pz.D. characteristically put together battle 
groups (Kampfgruppen) sometimes several each day to accomplish 
tasks assigned on the mobile offense. The process of advance in 7. 
Pz.D. can be seen almost as the formation of one battle group after 
another. The division staff put these groups together almost en- 
tirely on the basis of oral orders and brief messages — written divi- 
sion operations orders were a rarity. In accordance with the will of 
the division commander, the la and the modest staff section 
around him spent most of their time putting together battle groups, 
assigning mission oriented tasks to them, keeping track of their 
movements and then rejuggling as the situation rapidly changed. 
On the offensive, the division staff existed to act and facilitate the 
action necessary to take advantage of opportunities. Rommel in a 
message to division simply says "pioneers to the front." The la did 
not write an operations order to make this happen. The la clarified 
in his own mind how much and where and would probably have 
sent a message to Pi.58: "1 company immediately 25 right 1 km 



Perspectives On Warfighting 95 



Marine Corps University 

supporting crossing, attach 1 platoon Pak." Here we see things 
happening. The la alerts a commander, forms a small battle group, 
and gets things moving toward the front. The innumerable Ger- 
man battle groups and task groups suggest the following: 



7.Pz.D. Project Suggested Action #6 
Based on the observed success of 7.Pz.D. using 
one newly formed battle group after another, the 
Marine Corps should develop scenarios that de- 
mand rapid forward movement and which test the 
ability of commanders and staffs to put together 
battle groups both on the map and in field exer- 
cises. 

In France, 7.Pz.D. advanced so effectively under Rommel that 
the conclusion for the Marine Corps could well be simply to fight 
on the offensive as Rommel and 7.Pz.D. did in 1940. Clausewitz 
should have liked this advice because while he appreicated that 
there are no rules in war, he recognized the decisive role of genius. 
To fight as Rommel did is to do as the genius does. The genius and 
his division advanced at a high tempo, fought 24 hours a day, 
would suffer no tactical impasse, applied every weapon of the divi- 
sion to the fight and created stratagem after stratagem to keep 
things moving. The Marine division on the offensive should do all 
of these things. But it is not so easy to do, as to suggest. The unique 
history and circumstances of the Germans made it necessary for 
them to excel in war. They grasped the essence of war: chaos, vio- 
lence, uncertainty, chance, and danger. They determined in a long 
process of more than two centuries to meet uncertainly with action. 
Rommel's genius was action. This genius for action was built in to 
the structure of 7.Pz.D. through the small action oriented staff and 
the similarly oriented subordinate commanders. 

In Russia, 7.Pz.D. advanced without Rommel even more ef- 
fectively than it had in 1940. The Russian experience tells us that 
the genius of the division went far beyond one man. The great ad- 
vances of 7.Pz.D. in Russia were based on self confidence and ini- 
tiative among commanders, staff and rank and file — qualities that 



96 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 

focus on rapid action in war. The senior commanders in 7.Pz.D. 
allowed subordinate leaders to make mistakes. The tolerance of 
these leaders was never an excuse for slipshod performance; it was 
the calm recognition that rapid action in the face of uncertainty 
will result in errors — errors that can be overcome by more action. 
German command style pivoted on taking action in war, de- 
manded that subordinate leaders take such action, and accepted 
the mistakes that naturally occurred. With such a style, the leaders 
of 7.Pz.D. understood uncertainty as an omnipresent reality and 
rode with it to victories that cry out for emulation. 

The Marine Corps is far different from the German army of 
1940-1941 in historical condition and strategic mission. The prem- 
ise of this study has been that the Marine Corps can learn much 
from the experience of the Germans on the mobile offensive, a role 
in which a Marine division could easily be cast in the future as a 
part of a Marine Expeditionary Force. The main conclusion of this 
work is that the Marine Corps can increase its operational 
capabilities by examining, testing, and putting in practice aspects 
of the organization, tactics, and style of a German Panzer division. 
The Marine Corps should take a particularly close look at the for- 
mation of battle groups, the concept of fighting 24 hours a day, and 
the concept of uncertainty in war. These are just the main lessons 
the 7.Pz.D. has to offer. There are others. The lessons lay in the 
pages of history like free money waiting for a Marine who is will- 
ing to snatch them up, take them back to his unit, and put them 
into action. The 7.Pz.D. did have a bias for action. On the next bat- 
tlefield, any military force able to develop and practice that same 
bias will prove formidable. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 97 



Appendix 



Marine Corps University 



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100 



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A Bias for Action 



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Perspectives On Warfighting 



101 



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in Meuse Crossing. 



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A Bias for Action 



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Figure 5. Message from S.R. 7 to 7.Pz.D. (13 May 40). Answer to division 
query of 0550. 



Perspectives On Wdrfighting 



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104 



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PzAA.37 speaks directly to "The General" (Rommel) 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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sonally. (13 May 40). 



106 



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A Bias for Action 



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mand Post (14 May 40). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



107 



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Figure 10. Message from Rommel with Pz.R.25 to 7.Pz.D. (14 May 40). 



108 



Perspectives On Wdrfighting 



A Bias for Action 



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Figure 7/. Message from Rommel with Pz.R.25 to 7.Pz.D. (14 May 40). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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Rommel 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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Figure 16, Message from the General to the Division Command Post (17 
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Figure 77. Message from the General to the Division Command Post im- 
mediately before the Night Attack, 19-20 May 40. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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Figure 18. Message from the General to the Division Command Post (20 
May 40). 



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Figure 19. Message from the General to the Division Command Post (20 
May 40). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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Figure 2ft Message from the General to the Division Staff (20 May 40). 



116 



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A Bias for Action 



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Figure 21, Message from the General to the Division Staff (20 May 40). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



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C RASE MANN 1-1 AS GOtf? JNTd 
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Figure 22. Message from the Artillery Commander to the General (20 
May 40). 



118 Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



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URGENTLY MFC ESS AM. PJOfJfFZS 
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Moves forward 7 



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Figure 23. Message from the General to the Division Staff (20 May 40). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 119 



Marine Corps University 




Map 2. Situation of 7.Pz.D. on evening of 18 May 40. 



120 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 




Map 3. Situation of 7.Pz.D. at approximately 0700 20 May 40. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



121 



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Map 4. Concentration area o/7.Pz.D.for attack on the Soviet Union (22 
June 41). 



122 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 




Map 7. Location of 7.Pz.D. on 25.7.41. 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



123 



Marine Corps University 



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Map 8. Location of 7.Pz.D. on 28.7.41. 



124 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



A Bias for Action 



y ATTACK Of iZPz.D ON 
24-/2S.-7. 41 Th'ATlMZ TO 

TTif ob:ti-jction OF /I . 



Situation on Hjuwh 

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Map 9. Location of7.Pz.D. and attack of Soviet Group Kalinin (24 July 
41). 



Perspectives On Warfighting 



125 



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Stolfi, R. H\ S. 1932 
A bias for action 



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